Kosovo. The Kosovo Albanian UCPMB guerrilla continued its acts of violence in the region around the border in the east towards the rest of Serbia at the beginning of the year. The guerrillas, the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, wanted to incorporate Albanian-dominated parts of the Presevo Valley with an independent Kosovo.
In February, 7 civilian Serbs were killed and 21 injured when a bus was blown up in the air on the road between Niš in southern Serbia and Podujevo in northern K. The bus was part of a column with six other buses and with an escort of the NATO-led KFOR force. The attack contributed to NATO’s decision at the end of the month to scrap the security zone set up along the border after the 1999 war, mainly to protect KFOR. The Yugoslav military was not allowed to stay in the zone, which stretched half a mile into Serbia and used the guerrillas for attack in the Presevo Valley. NATO also tightened security in the area.
In March, UCPMB agreed to a ceasefire, just hours after Yugoslav soldiers began to regain the buffer zone. Occasional violence continued to flare up, and in mid-May, 14 guerrillas were killed in a fire. However, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement, Yugoslavia was able to send 4,000 soldiers and police on May 24 to occupy the remaining part of the zone. Albanian guerrillas had then for several weeks surrendered to KFOR and allowed themselves to be disarmed. They had been promised impunity. Many Albanians in the security zone fled to Kosovo before entering the army. However, the Yugoslav authorities promised to respect the human rights of all residents.
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In May, the UN administration in Kosovo, UNMIK, outlined how self-government should be designed in the disputed province, which has in effect become an international protectorate. Parliamentary elections were planned in November, but UNMIK retained control of taxes and budget, the judiciary and the civilian force that replaced the disbanded Albanian UCK guerrilla. The new parliament was given the right to decide on health care, education and the environment. Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova’s party LDK won the election by a good margin over two parties led by former guerrilla leaders. Rugova was long regarded as a moderate force, and many were therefore surprised when, even before the result was clear, he made a provocative statement that his highest priority was independence for Kosovo. It turned out that LDK did not get his own majority, which the party victoriously counted on.