U.S. Marines kill gunman in Kosovo firefight
June 25, 1999
More Russian troops expected to arrive Saturday
GNJILANE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- An unidentified gunman was killed Friday after exchanging fire with U.S. Marines near the Kosovo town of Gnjilane, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon told CNN.
Meanwhile, Russian troops are expected to begin arriving in the region Saturday to take part in NATO peacekeeping operations.
The incident, not far from Kosovo's border with Macedonia, began shortly before 6 p.m. (12 noon ET) when members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit came under small arms fire, U.S. officials said.
The Marines fired back and cleared buildings one by one searching for gunmen. No Marines were injured or killed, the Pentagon said.
During the search, a "wounded civilian man was found lying beside an AK-47 assault rifle," officials said. The man, whose affiliation was not immediately determined, was reported dead on arrival at a hospital.
It is unclear at this time if any of the other alleged assailants were taken into custody, CNN's Carl Rochelle reported.
The attack is the third on U.S. forces in Kosovo this week.
Marines manning a checkpoint near the village of Zegra came under fire by a group of armed men and returned fire Wednesday. One gunman was killed and two were wounded.
The first case was Monday night, when army soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, operating near the city of Urosevac, were fired upon but not injured.
In Washington, U.S. President Bill Clinton held firm on his pledge Friday that Serbia would not receive any reconstruction aid to rebuild as long as President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power.
Clinton said that Serb citizens must first "come out of denial" about atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and oust Milosevic from power.
"They are going to have to come to grips with what Milosevic ordered in Kosovo. ... If they think it's OK, they can make that decision, but I wouldn't give them one red cent for reconstruction," Clinton said.
The United States has offered up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of Milosevic and other Yugoslavs indicted as war criminals by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
Clinton, however, denied that Milosevic was a target for assassination.
"We have not put a price on Mr. Milosevic's head for someone to kill him ... no one is interested in that," Clinton said.
In Moscow, the upper house of Russia's parliament voted Friday to send 3,600 additional troops to the Yugoslav province.
Russian officials said some 300 troops would be dispatched Saturday, with a larger contingent due Monday. Full deployment will take several weeks.
Russian peacekeepers will not be controlling their own sector in Kosovo, but will be working under their own military command in zones controlled by French, German and U.S. peacekeepers. However, the Russians may be instrumental in helping provide shelter for Serbs who remain in Kosovo.
A few hundred Russian troops already maintain a presence in Pristina. They arrived unexpectedly ahead of NATO forces and took control of the Pristina airport two weeks ago.
In Belgrade, the Yugoslav Parliament has officially ended the state of war declared at the beginning of the NATO bombing campaign in late March.
The airstrikes caused an estimated $30 billion in damage to the Yugoslav economy, according to several independent Yugoslav economists called Group 17.
Group 17 calculated that Yugoslavia's gross domestic product has dropped 40 percent and that industrial production has fallen 44.5 percent.
Economist Mladjen Dinkic said that per capita gross domestic product will decrease to less than $1,000, down from $1,600 last year. He estimated 250,000 jobs had been lost.
Although Milosevic remains in power, Yugoslav officials hope that Western countries will provide aid to repair the electrical power supply in Serbia before winter arrives.
The United States plans to provide aid to Montenegro, which has embraced political and economic reform and has frequently clashed with Milosevic.
In the wake of the war, overtures of cooperation great and small have taken place. On Friday, the Yugoslav government released more than 100 ethnic Albanians to the International Red Cross. They are on their way back to Kosovo.
The two groups had good relations before the war, said one ethnic Albanian resident.
"We never quarreled or fought," Mirada Choti said. "We went to each others' weddings and funerals."
Other Albanians around Prizren lost their homes or lives. But Serbs in Srbica protected their neighbors from armed Serb forces who asked local residents if they "know any Albanians you want us to kill," said Zecir Choti.
Eventually forced out of the province in early May, the Srbica residents have returned to find everything the same, except their Serb neighbors have left.
Now the Albanians are protecting the homes of their friends, hoping they will return.
Correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Jim Clancy, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Steve Harrigan and Reuters contributed to this report.
European ministers 'appalled' by scenes of alleged Kosovo atrocities
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