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50 dead, 200 missing in Kosovo

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More than 50 ethnic Albanians have been killed and about 200 are missing since the latest Serb offensive in Kosovo began a week ago, a separatist leader said Friday.

An estimated 40,000 people have fled the fighting in the southern Serb province, many going to neighboring Albania, which has been struggling to cope with the flood of refugees. The European Union said Friday it will increase its $2.2 million aid package for the region to help Albania cope.Ethnic Albanians form 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people and are demanding independence from Serbia, the largest of two remaining republics in Yugoslavia.

Some of the 400 Kosovo Albanians who trekked into Albania overnight reported five deaths en route - two elderly people, said to have died of exhaustion, and three small children, the U.N. refugee agency reported.

Four ethnic Albanian villages have been destroyed and another eight were badly damaged in the Serb offensive, said Osman Cacaj of Democratic League of Kosovo, the ethnic Albanians' main party.

Sixteen other villages stood deserted after residents fled.

He listed more than 50 dead from the offensive, which is concentrated around Decani, 45 miles west of Kosovo's capital, Pristina.

Cacaj described the area as a deserted wasteland, with most bodies left unburied, farm animals roaming wild and several thousand civilians hiding in the woods.