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Vol 2, No 41
27 November 2000
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News from Kosovo
All the important news
since 18 November 2000

Llazar Semini


Rugova's aide killed in Priština

Xhemajl Mustafa, an advisor to moderate Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, was murdered in the Kosovo capital, Priština on Thursday. Mustafa was shot as he and another person walked up the stairs at the entrance to his apartment building in the Dardania district at about 15:00 local time.

A crowd gathered in the street after the shooting which took place in a densely populated area of the city, packed with bars, cafes and high-rise apartment blocks. KFOR troops sealed off the area while police began their investigation.

All Albanian political parties, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international institutions condemned the murder, saying that it was a step backwards for Kosovo.

Mustafa was a leading member of Mr Rugova's moderate nationalist Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and one of the veteran pacifist's closest political aides. The LDK won a landslide victory in municipal elections on 28 October. A series of murders have since followed, mainly targeting LDK officials.


Blast at Yugoslav mission in Kosovo kills one

A bomb attack on the home of the Yugoslav government's representative in Priština, Stanimir Vukičević, seriously injured his driver—who later died at a British military hospital—and a guard. No group has admitted carrying out the attack.

Vukičević, Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica's representative in the breakaway province, was not in the house at the time of the explosion—at a quarter to five in the morning—that came amid increasing frustration among many Albanians over their hopes for Kosovan independence.

Experts estimate that up to 10 kilos of military explosive were placed outside the building. The blast tore through the ground floor of the house, breaking doors, windows and blowing off roof tiles in a widespread area.

Nearby buildings suffered broken windows, including one housing the academy of the Kosovo Protection Force, the successor of the now formally disbanded rebel Kosovo Liberation Army. Bernard Kouchner, head of UNMIK, condemned the "well-prepared and very carefully executed" violence and said it was the latest in a series of attempts by radicals to block Serb-Albanian reconciliation.

"The extremists are now ready to step up their targeting of the Serb community," Kouchner said. But such acts deter neither the United Nations nor NATO in their determination to bring "peace and security" to Kosovo, he added. "This was not a random act of violence; it was well prepared and very carefully executed. This was a professional job, and the perpetrators were willing to take enormous risks to achieve their ends."


Albanian women protest for prisoners ends

A protest by Albanian women questioning the fate of some 3,500 missing Albanians since the war, and asking for the release of 800 Albanian prisoners in Serbia, came to an end without achieving anything except the hope that an amnesty law will be passed by the Yugoslav Federal Parliament next month.

Yugoslav Justice Minister Dragan Subašić went to Kosovo vowing to work for the release of ethnic Albanians held in Serb jails. Albanian relatives of the detained doubted his sincerity and refused to meet him while hundreds of women kept up a vigil outside the province's United Nations headquarters.

Albanians blocked Priština's main street, organizing daily three-hour general strikes. More than 2,000 ethnic Albanian prisoners were transferred to jails in Serbia before Yugoslav forces retreated from Kosovo in June 1999 and the UN administration took over the province. About 1,300 of the prisoners have been released with their families paying huge amounts of money to Serb lawyers.

Kouchner, addressing the U.N. Security Council, called on Yugoslavia's new president to release the detained Kosovo Albanians.


Kouchner calls for Kosovo vote

Following October's successful municipal elections, UNMIK administrator Kouchner called for parliamentary elections in the spring as the next step to self-government in Kosovo.

He also warned that any immediate move to settle Kosovo's future status "could very quickly lead to another conflict." Kosovo remains a province of Yugoslavia, even though it has been administered by the United Nations since the end of NATO bombing last year. Albanians in Kosovo want independence from Yugoslavia.

Kouchner also said it would be impossible to organize polling to allow the small Serb minority and others in Kosovo to vote in Serbia's December 23 elections.


Kouchner to quit

Kouchner has made it known that he is leaving the job as UN administrator in Kosovo and has suggested that the UK's Paddy Ashdown would be a worthy successor.

Ashdown, former leader of the UK's Liberal Democrat Party, has said he would be interested in the job. Kouchner took over as Kosovo administrator last year, after the end of the NATO bombing campaign, which drove Yugoslav forces out of the province. He has just steered the province through a round of municipal elections, and told reporters he had decided in advance that it would be the right time to go.

Kouchner said he will stay in his post until UN Secretary General Kofi Annan finds a successor. Earlier this year Kouchner tried and failed to get the job of UN High Commissioner of Refugees and admitted he was still disappointed.


OSCE trains new municipal representatives in Kosovo

The first round of post-election training for Kosovo's new Municipal Assembly members got underway. Organized and conducted by the OSCE through the Institute for Civil Administration, the training programme is an important element in the process of actually establishing the new local government structures and enabling them to start functioning.

The training, which will take the form of a two-day seminar for both elected and appointed members, will be held in each municipality over the coming weeks.

Over time, the new Assemblies will assume responsibility for a wide range of issues at the municipal level, including local economic development, the provision of services such as education, health care, water and sanitation, and local infrastructure and planning.


Inauguration of Ombudsman's office

The new Ombudsman Institution inaugurated its launch last week. The office began operating on 22 November. The Ombudsman's office will accept and investigate complaints against the authorities concerning alleged abuses of power and human rights violations. Services will be free of charge and can be used by individuals, groups and organizations.


US Kosovo peacekeeper dies

A US soldier serving in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a US KFOR statement said. The soldier was identified as Pfc. Donald J. Heatherly of the 503rd Military Police Battalion out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. "This is a tragic loss to his family and his unit. The death of a soldier is keenly felt by all members of the command," said Brigadier General Dennis E. Hardy, the commander of American troops in Kosovo.


UN scientists complete survey of radioactive Kosovo bomb sites

On Friday, UN scientists completed a survey of sites contaminated by depleted uranium (DU) ammunition fired by NATO planes during the Kosovo war. They recommended the sites be avoided while samples were tested. The results of the study will be available in February next year.

"It was possible to detect higher than normal levels of beta and gamma radiation," Pekka Haavisto, head of the United Nations Environment Program team told reporters. "These sites should be marked. The danger is perhaps less than having an X-ray at a dentist, but it is an unnecessary risk."

DU is used to make munitions heavier and enable them to cut through tank armor. But its use is controversial because it throws up a cloud of radioactive dust at the point of impact, which could present lingering health risks.


UNHCR urges caution in resettling Kosovo refugees

Ethnic Albanians who fled Kosovo seeking asylum in Europe should be returned slowly so as not to strain the country's capacity to absorb them, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. For ethnic Serbs who fled the province, however, the situation was still too dangerous, High Commissioner Sadako Ogata told a news conference, adding that Kosovo had the least stable refugee situation in the Balkans.

"The protection needs of the Albanians are minimal. In principle we want the minorities to return, but we should exercise enormous caution," said Ogata, who will be succeeded as UNHCR by Dutch former Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers.

Llazar Semini, 24 November 2000

Llazar Semini is the Kosova Project Manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

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