Reuters Presevo Guerrillas Release Serb Woman Hostage
Presevo Guerrillas Release Serb Woman Hostage
KONCULJ, Apr 1, 2001 -- (Reuters) Ethnic Albanian guerrillas released a
Serb woman in the volatile Presevo Valley on Saturday in a goodwill gesture a
day after NATO-mediated peace talks, their leader said.
Suzana Petric, 26, was handed over to a NATO-led peacekeeping team after
NATO special envoy Pieter Feith appealed to Albanian guerrillas in the area of
southern Serbia bordering Kosovo to release their hostages.
Five men, including two Yugoslav army soldiers, are still being held. The
guerrillas say Petric and others were found with explosives in their car earlier
this month and were planning to blow up a mosque.
"I know they are terrorists, but to continue in a positive way, the UCPMB
headquarters decided to release the woman," said Shefket Musliu, a
commander in the National Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and
Bujanovac, known by its Albanian initials UCPMB.
Friday's talks were the second round of negotiations aimed at ending more than
a year of clashes between guerrillas and Serbian security forces in the Presevo
Valley in which several dozen people have been killed.
The guerrillas demand the release of three local Albanians arrested by Serbian
security forces before they hand over the rest of the captives. The Serbs say the
Albanians are being held legally for possessing explosives or weapons.
"I think this (release) is a very good first step and the start of a long process,"
said Shawn Sullivan, political adviser to the commander of NATO-led
peacekeepers in Kosovo. "We cannot undo years of discrimination in a few
The guerrillas, who have flourished in a NATO-declared no-go zone for Serb
forces around Kosovo's borders with the rest of Yugoslavia, say they are
fighting Serb persecution of local Albanians.
Belgrade, where reformers ousted autocrat Slobodan Milosevic last October,
has branded the rebels terrorists seeking to join the Presevo Valley to ethnic