Kosovo guerrilla group says ready to fight Serbia-TV

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PRISTINA, Serbia, Oct 4 (Reuters) Kosovo public television has broadcast footage of masked and armed members of a self-proclaimed guerrilla army who said they were ready to fight for Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

The report, filmed by an independent journalist, was broadcast today evening on Radio Television Kosovo.

The ethnic Albanian majority in the southern Serbian province is growing increasingly frustrated with the West's stalled bid to grant it independence in the face of Serb and Russian opposition.

The men, dressed in black and holding automatic weapons and sniper rifles, said they were members of the outlawed Albanian National Army (ANA), a group branded ''terrorists'' in 2003 by the United Nations mission that has governed Kosovo for eight years.

''Following serious threats of war ... by Serb paramilitaries, and that Serbia will again invade Kosovo, we are forced to be ready and aware,'' said one man, his face hidden by a black balaclava.

There were around 10 men in the film.

A spokesman for the NATO force, KFOR, said the ANA statement was ''inappropriate''.

''They will of course be treated as illegal persons by the relevant services ... if we catch them or meet them,'' said Colonel Bertrand Bonneau. NATO has 16,000 troops in the province of 2 million people, 90 percent Albanians.

The men in the video wore insignia almost identical to that of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a guerrilla army that battled Serb forces in 1998 and 1999 and drew NATO into its first 'humanitarian' bombing war to halt the slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians.

The ANA surfaced after the war in Kosovo and Albanian insurgencies in southern Serbia and Macedonia in 2000 and 2001.

Its size and potential threat has never been determined, and some diplomats have dismissed it as an 'internet army'.

Serbia has called for the return of some Serb police to protect Kosovo's 120,000 Serbs. It says it does not want to send its army back eight years after it capitulated and withdrew.

A group of hardline Serb nationalists and war veterans has threatened to fight but lacks any political support. It has called a protest for Oct. 14 in Kosovo's Serb-dominated north.

REUTERS JK RN1446

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