Mitrovice flares up again, one Albanian dead
Mitrovice flares up again, one Albanian dead
On Monday Kosovar Albanians and Kosovo Serbs started a fight and ending up throwing grenades at each other. Six Kosovar Albanians were wounded. Gazmend Ibrahimi, a 15-year old youth was evacuated to the Moroccan Hospital, but he later died. The five others were transported to the KFOR hospital and later by air to the Pristina civilian hospital.
Following that incident, Kosovar Albanians and Kosovo Serbs gathered at the scene on both side of the Iber river bridge dividing the town. The KFOR Multinational Brigade North soldiers and UNMIK police managed to keep the crowd under control. Eventually the crowd dispersed and people returned home.
For a time, angry Albanians threw stones and petrol bombs at the KFOR troops, who reacted by firing tear gas. Many KFOR and UNMIK and OSCE cars were set ablaze and people were injured on both sides.
On Tuesday, while the funeral ceremony for the teenager was being held, a couple of thousands of Albanians surrounded the Municipality Building and the nearby KFOR checkpoint. The crowd then began charging towards the main bridge where French KFOR used teargas to disperse them.
Some 22 French peacekeepers were injured on Tuesday and Wednesday in clashes with Albanian protestors in southern Mitrovice. More injuries were reported on Thursday.The soldiers, who were deployed on a bridge between the two crowds, came under a hail of petrol bombs and stones thrown by ethnic Albanians.
Some of the province's Albanian political representatives, asked by UNMIK head Hans Haekkerup to calm the demonstrators, failed to do so.
KFOR commander, General Carlo Cabigiosu, called in extra troops to reinforce those who had come under attack in the town on Tuesday. NATO-led peacekeepers also announced that a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew would be imposed in the town.
Fifty-three U.N. personnel remained in headquarters, located on the southern side of Mitrovica, where ethnic Albanian demonstrators surrounded them, U.N. officials said in New York.
"We've just received word that the personnel have been told not to leave the building and they may have to stay overnight if the situation doesn't improve," U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said.
Demonstrators appeared to be targeting French peacekeepers rather than U.N. officials. Cars were set on fire just outside the French army base located on the ethnic Albanian side of Mitrovica. Ethnic Albanians have often vented their frustration at the French peacekeepers, because they are seen as being pro-Serb. NATO denies that.
Haekkerup, the U.N. administrator, said Mitrovica's people must take responsibility for halting the riots that have flared repeatedly in the town. "We will make every effort to provide security," Haekkerup said. But people must "join in that effort if we are ever to achieve a united and peaceful Mitrovica."
He condemned the violence, and "expressed his shock that a young man should be the victim of a disgusting political provocation," his spokeswoman Susan Manuel said.
Cabigiousu said on Thursday the situation was still tense and it could become worse. Television coverage showed continuous clashes between Albanians throwing stones and KFOR troops using tear gas, a view not dissimilar to that seen in Israel and Palestinian territories at the moment.
The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) of Ibrahim Rugova, winner in last October's municipal elections, said he considered the unrest in Mitrovice to be planned by Belgrade and carried out by the local Serbs and other paramilitaries under orders from Belgrade.
U.N. Security Council concerned at southern Serbia situation
There has been more fighting between Yugoslav army troops and police and the fighters of the Liberation Army of the Preševo, Medvedje and Buijanovac (UCPMB) during the last week in southern Serbia (eastern Kosovo as Albanians call it).
The UN Security Council on Tuesday issued a statement in which it "strongly condemned the attacks by ethnic Albanian extremist groups", and reiterated theor strong support for full implementation of SC Resolution 1244 in its entirety. It made clear to Kosovo Albanian leaders that extremism in and around the Preševo Valley was unacceptable.
Situation there was very tense and armed groups of UCPMB were stopped from crossing from Kosovo into the area. Some 200 people were arrested and many weapons confiscated. UNHCR spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort said that since fighting started on Wednesday, 52 Albanians had left the area and come to Kosovo.
The Democratic League of Kosovo expressed its concern on the developments in Preševo Valley and asked the international community to intervene to find a political solution there.
Riza Halimi, mayor of Preševo, condemned recent statements from senior officials in Belgrade, saying they did not help in the stabilization of the situation. "No political solution can be achieved without first accepting the catastrophic mistakes of the Milosevic regime and without undertaking penal steps against their authors," he said, adding that in any political dialogue representatives of the UCPMB should also take part.
Serb trial discourages Albanians
A war crimes trial in Prizren sentenced Sava Matić, a Serb from Rahovec, to two years imprisonment on Tuesday, a verdict considered much too light by Albanians.
After five sessions the Romanian judge Daniel Grujas and the German Ingo Rislli declared Matić guilty of causing physical injuries to three Albanians in Rahovec. Albanian judge Neriman Vehapi declined to accept that. He considered that verdict as "absurd, unfounded and illegal".
Scores of Albanians from Krushe e Madhe village, where some 83 people were killed in 1999 by Serb forces, staged a protest in front of the court against Matić's sentence. They accuse Matić of being amongst those involved in the killing.
Llazar Semini, 3 February 2001
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