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Armed Albanians fire-fight police

By NESHO DJURIC

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Four Albanians were killed Thursday when police broke into a cellar where they were barricaded and 'liquidated' them, the official news agency Andina said.

The deaths bring to five the number of people killed in four days of bloody clashes between Albanians, demanding more autonomy from Serbia, and police in Yugoslavia's southeastern Kosovo province, officials said Thursday.

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Police laid siege to a house on the outskirts of Pristina, capital of Kosovo Province, four seven hours, exchanging gunfire with at least four Albanians barricaded in the cellar, the news agency said.

An official was quoted as saying police eventually broke through to the cellar and 'liquidated the terrorists.'

Also Thursday, more than 500 Albanians took to the streets of Pristina, hurling stones at riot police who wore bullet-proof vests and fired teargas from behind plastic sheilds to disperse the protesters.

Dozens were injured in the clash, including at least two policemen, and dozens of protesters were arrested, officials said.

Authorities said Bedri Shokoli, a 27-year-old Albanian, was shot and killed Wednesday evening by a police officer who was hit by a stone during an earlier riot in Pristina and fired a shot 'in self-defense.'

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In Podujevo, north of Pristina, several hundred demonstrators hurled stones at police and barricaded themselves in the town's narrow streets Thursday, and a demonstrator waving an ax injured a policeman, police said.

Additional reports from Urosevac, south of Pristina, said about 50 young Albanians took to the streets Thursday chanting slogans.

The demonstrators, protesting what they call Serbian persecution, began a series of street protests Monday to oppose the trial of former local Communist Party chief Azem Vllasi and 14 other Albanian managers and executives.

The 15 went on trial Monday in Titova Mitrovica on charges of inspiring anti-Serbian demonstrations in Kosovo in November and February.

The indictment alleged Vllasi was responsible for the deaths of 25 people killed in a March clash between Albanians and police even though he was in police custody at the time.

Kosovo, whose 1.7 million Muslim Albanians outnumber its 200,000 Orthodox Christian Serbs, is an autonomous province of Serbia, the largest of Yugoslavia's six republics with about 8.5 million Serbs.

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