Serbian forces have captured the rebel stronghold of Junik, driving ethnic Albanian fighters from their logistical and weapons distribution center, police said today.
Serbian forces gained control of the village, near the border with Albania, late Saturday after a 20-day siege, said police spokesman Col. Bozidar Filic. He said there were no civilian casualties, because they had left Junik before the fighting began.
Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army tried to escape across the border to Albania but were blocked by army border guards and dispersed into mountain forests, according to state-run Tanjug news agency. Four policemen and two Yugoslav army soldiers died in the operation, it said. There were no reports of rebel casualties.
Junik was deserted except for about 15 elderly people who could not flee. Some houses were smoldering, but most of the village remained intact.
Filic said that by capturing the rebel stronghold, "the territory of Kosovo has been freed for movement in all directions."
The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army is fighting Serbian security forces for the independence of Kosovo, a province of Serbia, which is the dominant republic of Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanians account for 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people. Since fighting began five months ago, gains by Serbian forces have proven difficult to maintain, and analysts say the rebels could regroup.
The pro-Albanian Kosovo Information Center said fighting continued today in Logja and that heavy artillery had destroyed part of the village. Government forces reportedly used tanks and helicopters Saturday to attack Logja and eight other villages in the area 45 miles west of Pristina. The center said three ethnic Albanians were killed and 14 wounded during the weekend fighting.