World Socialist Web Site

Serbs and Roma flee KLA terror in Kosovo

By Michael Conachy
20 August 1999

Propaganda claims that the US-NATO war against Yugoslavia was conducted
in a humanitarian effort to halt “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo lie in
tatters as Serbs and Roma (gypsies) continue to flee the province to
escape harassment, intimidation, beatings and murder at the hands of the
Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

As many as 170,000 Serbs of a pre-war population of 200,000 have left
the province since the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops. Less than 7,000
Roma are estimated to remain of a population of 30,000 to 40,000. Most
of those are confined to enclaves, surrounded by NATO's Kosovo Force
(KFOR) troops and living in constant fear of KLA attack.

Speaking last week in the Kosovo capital Pristina, where the number of
Serb residents has decreased from 40,000 to less than 2,000 in the past
eight weeks, KFOR spokesman Major Jen Joosten described the atmosphere
of intimidation. "Serbs cannot go to hospitals, shop, or even receive
humanitarian assistance. There must be many of whose existence we are
not even aware." After acknowledging that they cannot leave their homes
for fear of violence he tried to excuse the failure of NATO's military
to protect them. "Everything is being done to keep the Serbs here, but
KFOR can't be on every street corner or in every house," he said lamely.

Head of the United Nations mission in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, revealed
the extent of the KLA's campaign in a statement to an Athens newspaper
this week. “In the future, I will not allow the homes of 10 or 15 Serbs
to be burnt down every night, even if it means confrontation with the
KLA. I have told [KLA leader Hashim] Thaci that my patience has run
out.” Kouchner, however, outlined no planned steps to halt the attacks
on Serbs and other ethnic groups.

There have been a series of killings in Pristina. On June 23, for
example, the bodies of three men were found in the basement of the
economics' faculty of Pristina University. They were Milenko Lekovic, a
Serb professor of economics, Miodrag Mladenovic, a Serb guard in the
building, and Jovica Stamenkovic, a Serb waiter from the café in the
faculty. They had been beaten with a blunt instrument before being shot.

Most of the Serbs remaining in the capital are the elderly and disabled
who have no means of leaving or no place to go. Two elderly women were
murdered in the first week of August; both were shot through the doors
of their apartments. A Serb woman and her four-year-old child were
reportedly shot on August 11. The woman staggered with her child to a
KFOR checkpoint where she died, the child was taken to hospital.

On Monday, two Serb teenagers were killed and five other Serbs injured
during a mortar attack on the village of Klokot, south-east of Pristina.

A documented reign of terror

The US-based Human Rights Watch organisation released a report at the
beginning of August, entitled "Abuses against Serbs and Roma in the new
Kosovo", which documents an apparently coordinated campaign of
abductions, beatings, house-burning and murders of Serbs and Roma by the
KLA. In addition to the widely publicised killings in Gracko and
Prizren, the report describes many other little known atrocities.

Researchers viewed the bodies of three Serbs killed on June 19 in the
village of Belo Polje, near Pec. Villagers claim that 10 uniformed KLA
soldiers entered the village and executed Radomir Stosic, aged 50, his
uncle Steven Stosic, 60, and their friend Filip Kosic, 46. Each of the
men was killed by a shot between the eyes at point-blank range.
According to the Serbian Orthodox Church in Pec, 30 Serbs were killed in
the municipality during June and July.

KLA soldiers in the village of Pones in the Gnjilane municipality
abducted six cowherds on June 19. The men were beaten and interrogated,
and two of them—Momcilo Dimic, 60, and Cedomir Denic, 50—were later
found dead. KFOR officers in the town of Obilic reported that eight
Serbs have been killed there since early June in what are described as
"organised attacks" in which "KLA units were implicated".

In the town of Lipljan, KFOR officers reported that a male Serb was
decapitated in the middle of the busy town market on July 9, between 11
am and 3 pm. One week later, four grenade attacks were carried out
against Serb homes in the town in the early afternoon, killing one
person. The attacks were carried out within the space of one hour and at
regular intervals.

Four elderly Serb men in the village of Slivovo were reportedly abducted
and killed in the third week of June. Two Roma men, Bajram Berisha, 34,
and Vesel Berisha, 24, were killed by unknown assailants in Mitrovica in
late June. Three Roma are believed to have been murdered in the town of
Djakovica and three families burned in their homes in the village of
Dubrava, also in June.

Researchers also document the abduction, interrogation and torture of
numerous Serb and Roma civilians—mostly elderly men. The purpose of
abductions and beatings appears to be to terrorise people into leaving
Kosovo, as most are subsequently released. Many victims exhibited
extensive bruising and knife cuts when interviewed by Human Rights Watch
researchers. Those reported abducted by the KLA but not released are
"presumed dead".

The report describes the following testimony of 71 year-old S.B. as
typical: "[KLA soldiers] grabbed me, brought me down to the cellar and
took turns hurting me. There were several of them, all in uniform...
While they were beating me, they insulted me, called me ‘Chetnik,' and
told me to leave forever."

House-burnings are a commonplace occurrence. Thirty Roma homes were
torched in the Brekoc neighborhood of Djakovica within the space of
three hours on July 12. Uniformed KLA soldiers told the families to
leave their homes a few days before. The Roma neighbourhood in Pec was
almost entirely looted and burned in late June.

Most Serb and Roma homes in the village of Slovinje suffered a similar
fate, as did the local Orthodox Church. Other targets of arson include
the Serb areas of the villages and towns of Lipljan, Magura, Dolac,
Drenovac, Brestovik, Vitomira, Istok, Belo Pojle, Veric, Srbobran and
Obilic. There has also been widespread burning and looting of former
Serb and Roma areas of Pristina. Recent reports tally at least 200
villages and 41 Serbian churches have been destroyed since KFOR
established control over the province.

Human Rights Watch observed: "The most serious incidents of violence...
have been carried out by members of the KLA. Although the KLA leadership
issued a statement on July 20 condemning attacks on Serbs and Roma, and
KLA political leader Hashim Thaci publicly denounced the July 23
massacre of 14 Serb farmers, it remains unclear whether these beatings
and killings were committed by local KLA units acting without official
sanction, or whether they represent a coordinated KLA policy..."

The report concluded: "The intent behind many of the killings and
abductions that have occurred in the province since early June appears
to be the expulsion of Kosovo's Serb and Roma population rather than a
desire for revenge alone. This explanation is borne out by more direct
and systematic efforts to force Serbs and Roma to leave their homes." It
cites the fact that large numbers of Serbs and Roma report being
directly warned by ethnic Albanians, under threat of violence, to leave
Kosovo and never return.

In light of this evidence, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's
declaration in Pristina on July 29 that "Never again will people with
guns come in the night" in Kosovo, sounds like a cruel joke.

International response to KLA inspired "ethnic cleansing"

Like all of the nationalist militia groups in the Balkans, the KLA's
program is based on ethnic separatism. Its aim over the past four years
has been to sever Kosovo from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and
establish an independent state as part of the long term goal of
establishing an ethnically pure Greater Albania—encompassing Albania,
Kosovo and the Albanian-populated areas of Macedonia and Montenegro.
This program requires the expulsion of the non-Albanian population.

The Human Rights Watch report makes clear that the KLA has a history of
attacks on minority ethnic groups. It states in part: "It is also
important to note that the KLA has been linked to earlier abuses against
Serbs, Roma and Kosovar Albanians during 1998 and during the first three
months of 1999. Specifically, reports by the Humanitarian Law Center,
the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Human Rights Watch's
own research indicate that dozens of Serbs, and a smaller number of Roma
and Albanians, were detained by the KLA between mid-1998 and March 1999.

At least 130 Serbs went missing during this time and are presumed dead."

This assessment underscores the fact that a bitter civil war was raging
in Kosovo between the Yugoslav army and the KLA in 1998 and early 1999,
before NATO intervention. Both sides were engaged in destroying the
lives and property of civilians from “opposing” ethnic groups. The US
and NATO elected to support the KLA and bomb Yugoslavia, because it
suited their own political, economic and strategic interests in the
Balkans, not out of altruistic opposition to human rights abuses.

Since KFOR's occupation of Kosovo, the public position of US-NATO
leaders has been to favour the creation of a “multi-ethnic” and
“democratic” Kosovo. But their policy on the ground has been to turn a
blind eye to the KLA expulsion of Serbs and Roma.

Human Rights Watch made the following assessment of the role of KFOR
during the months of June and July. "KFOR's overall record on preventing
the abduction, detention, and murder of Serbs and Roma is also poor. A
KFOR officer in eastern Kosovo told a Human Rights Watch researcher that
his unit did not even try to keep track of the abductions because of
their frequency. In many cases, KFOR officers from all contingents
expressed the view that the commission of such crimes was inevitable.
Efforts by a Human Rights Watch researcher to report an incident of
harassment in Ljubizda village on June 30 to the German KFOR contingent
required multiple visits to local posts and then to the contingent
headquarters in Prizren, where a civilian-military implementation cell
officer appeared uninterested in the details of the case."

KFOR has dismissed warnings by the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) that it may be necessary to evacuate the remaining
Serbs in Kosovo. “It is not our policy to assist people to leave. That
is their own decision and they must make their own way,” KFOR spokesman
Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Hodges said this week. But as UNHCR
representative Dennis McNamara noted, the agency had experienced
instances where it had chosen not to help people to leave and they had
then been killed.

Clashes with KFOR

Most of the Serbs remaining in Kosovo are concentrated in a few towns
including Kosovo Polje, Dobratin, Gracinica, Velika Hoca, Gorazdevac,
Orahovac and the section of Kosovo Mitrovica north of the Ibar river—the
scene of recent clashes between KLA-inspired demonstrators and French
KFOR troops.

Beginning on August 6, crowds of up to 1,000 Albanians, many of them
young men wearing KLA scarves, have attempted to force their way across
the Ibar bridge into the section of Mitrovica housing several thousand
Serbs. French soldiers erected a barbed wire barrier across the bridge
after three days of clashes that left several Albanians and one French
soldier seriously injured. French Lieutenant Meriadec Raffray was in no
doubt as to who organised the demonstrations, “The KLA leaders are only
interested in keeping up the pressure,” he told the media. “They want to
provoke an incident.”

Kosovo Mitrovica is a mining centre, some 20 miles north of Pristina,
and has been a centre of ethnic tensions since the end of the war. The
purpose of the demonstrations is firstly to further intimidate Serbs
living in the town and to force them to leave, and secondly, to put
pressure on the French troops. Demonstrators taunted the French soldiers
with chants of “terrorists” and demanded, “French go back to France,
Americans come here.”

Speaking at a news conference on August 8, KLA political chief Hashim
Thaci denied responsibility for the Mitrovica clashes and said the
demonstrators “gathered by themselves.” But he then went on to launch a
tirade against French troops, accusing them of behaving in “an
undemocratic way, and a very arrogant way.” Thaci claimed that by
protecting the Serb enclave, the KFOR contingent was violating the UN
resolution authorising its presence and that it wished to divide Kosovo
on ethnic lines. “Kosovo means Mitrovica and Mitrovica means Kosovo. We
are not going to allow the separation of the city,” he warned.

Thaci also denounced the Russian contingent on August 1, after its
soldiers briefly detained KLA military commander Agim Ceku at a
checkpoint for failing to produce a KFOR identity card authorising him
to carry weapons and travel with an armed security detail. Thaci accused
the Russians of a “premeditated political act” that “verifies our doubts
about the ability of Russian troops to bring stability to Kosovo.”

Since the withdrawal of Yugoslav Army units, the KLA has declared itself
a “provisional government” and sought to establish political control of
the whole province. It has taken over former state-owned property,
requisitioned hotels, homes, apartments and vehicles and assumed local
leadership positions. Aid agencies complain they must deal with the
organisation to get anything done. “We talked to the mayor's office and
we had to deal with the local police, but it was one and the same—KLA,”
said one Norwegian aid worker.

There are signs of tension between the Albanian nationalists and the
KFOR forces. On August 7, KFOR troops raided a house where KLA “interior
minister” Rexhep Selimi and others were meeting. They discovered
weapons, ammunition, radio frequency scanners, and a very large quantity
of German marks. They also discovered a number of identity cards
labelled “Ministry of Public Order”. The cards, signed by Selimi,
authorised the bearer to carry weapons, confiscate property and make

NATO immediately issued a statement describing KFOR as the "sole
legitimate armed force in Kosovo." It warned that "any attempt by any
group to usurp this authority is not acceptable to the international
community and will not be tolerated."

KFOR's actions and statements are not motivated by “humanitarian”
concerns for the Serb and Roma refugees any more than the NATO bombing
of Yugoslavia was a response to the plight of Albanians. Having spent
billions to force the capitulation of Yugoslavia, and to occupy Kosovo
as a long-term base of operations in the region, the major powers have
no intention of ceding control to the KLA.

NATO's plans for a virtual military protectorate in Kosovo are coming
into collision with the KLA's political ambitions for an independent
Kosovo and ultimately Greater Albania. In the past the KLA has proven a
useful political tool for NATO, so much so that at the Rambouillet
conference in February that set the stage for the war, the US elevated
the KLA to the status of a legitimate participant. As far as the future
is concerned, however, the only role that NATO has for the KLA is as a
compliant and subordinate participant in its administration.

The Guardian

Old Serbs become terror target

Chris Bird in Podujevo
Monday August 23, 1999

Jelica Cemburovic, 87, is waiting to die. She wants to die in Kosovo so that she can be laid to rest next to her husband in a Serbian Orthodox cemetery in Kosovo's northern town of Podujevo - a banal enough wish.

But Mrs Cemburovic is not to be allowed a peaceful old age and a dignified death. The hatred felt by Podujevo's ethnic Albanians, thirsty for revenge against the Serb minority here for the horrific excesses of the Serbian security forces during this year's war in Kosovo, has seen to that.

The frail old woman, with inflamed blue eyes and a heart condition, is now a prime target for groups of armed ethnic Albanians who have carried out a spate of murders of the Serb elderly to terrify the handful of Serbs, Montenegrins and gypsies still left in Kosovo into leaving. At the weekend Nato peacekeepers found an elderly couple shot dead in their apartment in the south-western town of Prizren. "We presume they are Serbs," said a spokesman for K-For yesterday.

Brutality characterises these murders, intended to act as an example to those who refuse to leave. Belgrade's media reported that a 62-year-old Serb woman was found dead in the village of Landovica, near Prizren, last week. An elderly Serb woman was found beaten to death in her bath in Pristina earlier this month.

In a report this month detailing abuses against Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo, the US-based Human Rights Watch recorded how two elderly Serb neighbours had their throats slit in June.

One of the victims, Marica Stamenkovic, was found by German peacekeepers to have been almost decapitated. The victims had ignored repeated warnings to leave issued by ethnic Albanians wearing the uniforms of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

"We sit here," said Mrs Cemburovic, an enamel plate of bitter walnuts on her dining room table accenting her still life. "We do not go out anywhere."

Across the table sat her friend Jelica Miljanovic, in her 70s. After threats from ethnic Albanians telling her to "Go to Serbia!", she fled her apartment to join Mrs Cemburovic.

They are two of three elderly Serbs not to have left the town when British peacekeeping troops arrived in June.

Then, the town popped and crackled with gunfire between departing Serbian forces, defeat in their eyes, and ethnic Albanian KLA fighters who stole into the town behind the British troops. Now, red Albanian flags, martial songs glorifying the KLA, and crowds clogging the streets make a frightening din below her cramped, concrete balcony.

The two old women are now under constant protection from a unit of British peacekeepers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, red and white feather hackles on their berets. Corporal Alan Lovett, stood standing at the entrance to Mrs Cemburovic's apartment block with an assault rifle, was a little deflated by "granny patrol". "I thought I'd be fighting my way through
towns," said the corporal, "not guarding metal factories and old ladies."

To Mrs Cemburovic and Mrs Miljanovic, the British soldiers outside their door are mnogo fino, "very fine", despite the frightening time people had earlier this summer under bombardment by Nato jets. "If I was younger..." mused Mrs Miljanovic, a kittenish look on her face, lined like the walnuts on the table.

Mrs Cemburovic - the more serious of the two characters - said that without the soldiers she would not be able to stay in Podujevo. The glass in the windows of her apartment overlooking the street were smashed when unidentified attackers threw rocks. She whacked her palms on her cheeks, saying this was how ethnic Albanians had slapped her in the street.

"The KLA have told our neighbours not to talk to us," she said. "The KLA run everything here," she said. When she ventured out to the post office to collect her pension last week - escorted by Corp Lovett's men - the ethnic Albanian clerks told her there was no money for her, for which she blames the KLA.

The smiles on the ragged children playing around the entrance to her apartment block hide a disturbing malevolence. On the rare occasions Mrs Cemburovic leaves the flat, the children run their fingers across their throats to mock her.

"I said to one of their mothers once, 'Why do you let them behave like that?' " she said. "She wasn't in the least sorry, just said they were 'politicised'. I think someone's stirring them up to do it."

Relations between the Serb and ethnic Albanian communities in Kosovo have seethed for decades, but she still finds it hard to understand the hatred now ranged against her. All across Kosovo, peacekeepers are keeping similar vigils. Irish Guards are parked outside my elderly Serb neighbour's house in Pristina in a large armoured vehicle. "We're here as long as they [the old Serbs] want to stay," said one of the guardsmen yesterday. "But many are deciding to leave."

International officials here are asking how long they can afford to keep the Serbs and gypsies inside Kosovo. "You just can't protect everyone 24 hours a day," said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in Kosovo.

"There is a question: how long are K-For and the other international agencies going to be able to provide this kind of protection?"

Mr Redmond estimates that 180,000 Serbs have left Kosovo, of whom he thinks 50,000 had gone before Nato started bombing in March. About one-tenth of the original Serb population remain.

Even if she wanted to leave, Mrs Cemburovic seems to have nowhere else to go. The last she saw of her two adopted children was when they drove to Podujevo from the provincial capital, Pristina, during the Nato bombardment to see if she was alive. She speaks vaguely of a relative in Belgrade. Like their counterparts from Croatia in 1995, Serb refugees are not welcome in northern Serbia.

"My husband's at the cemetery," said Mrs Cemburovic. "I have a place next to him, I just want to be buried next to him. That is all."


UNHCR says Kosovo nearly "emptied out" of Serbs

August 24, 1999

GENEVA (Reuters) -- Kosovo is being "emptied out" of Serbs with only
30,000 remaining in the province, the United Nations refugee agency said on

"We are pretty much approaching the line of an almost Serb-free Kosovo,
which is an extremely sad phenomenon," spokesman Kris Janowski told a
news conference.

"One exodus is following another," he added.

Yugoslav authorities have told the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) that 195,000 ethnic Serbs and other non-Albanians have fled
from Kosovo to Serbia and Montenegro, a rise from 180,000 two or three
weeks ago, he said.

Most ethnic Serbs and Gypsies left during or immediately after NATO's
11-week bombing campaign which ended in early June.

Ethnic Albanians in the province have carried out scores of retaliatory
attacks on Serbs over the past two months since thousands returned to
Kosovo after being driven out by Belgrade forces.

"We've not had reports over the last 10 days or so that we used to have of
murders or other atrocities almost every day," Janowski said. "It is slowly
getting better, but most Serbs are gone," he said.

"The latest fgures from the Federal Yugoslav government indicate that
Kosovo is emptying out of its Serbs and only three municipalities in the
extreme north of Kosovo have sizeable Serb populations," Janowski said.

"We can't vouch for the accuracy of the figures. Nevertheless, the trend is
there," he added.

The UNHCR was evacuating 28 "vulnerable elderly Serbs" on Tuesday
from the southern Kosovo town of Prizren to Serbia, where they will be
reunited with their families.

"Virtually all of the 28 have received verbal threats and begged to be
evacuated," Janowski said.

Asked how many ethnic Serbs might remain in Kosovo, Janowski replied:
"Maybe up to 30,000...It has been a continuous exodus."

Radio Free Europe

Yugoslavia: Beatings Of Gorans Heighten Ethnic Tensions
By Jolyon Naegele

There is wide knowledge of the harsh treatment facing Serbs and Roma in
Kosovo. But RFE/RL's Jolyon Naegele visits the southwestern Gora region and reports that the local Goran minority is also facing harsh treatment at the hands of ethnic Albanians. He files this report from the district capital,

Dragash, Kosovo; 24 August 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Gora is one of the least
populated and most inaccessible districts in Kosovo. The area encompasses a cluster of mountains and steep valleys wedged between Albania and Macedonia that are home to two ethnic groups -- the Albanians and the Gorans.

The Gorans are a small minority who, according to the last census in 1991,
numbered about 20,000 in Gora and a further 25,000 elsewhere in the former
Yugoslavia. They speak a transitional Serbo-Macedonian dialect and were
largely converted to Islam from Orthodoxy in the early 18th century. The
Gorans have their own customs and traditions, but share some folk customs
with their Albanian neighbors.

At the outset of the NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia last March, Serbian
authorities launched a selective campaign of expulsions and retentions. In
the local Albanian villages, mainly in the northern parts of Dragash
district, Serbian forces expelled all the Albanians on March 30, giving them
30 minutes to pack and leave. The Serbs forced most of the Gorans to stay by issuing their men mobilization orders.

But some Gorans also went to Belgrade to demonstrate against NATO air
strikes and in support of the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic. This did not endear them to their Albanian neighbors in exile in
Macedonia and Albania.

The Turkish KFOR commander in Dragash, Izzet Cetingoz, says that when his forces arrived in the district, anger among ethnic Albanians toward the
Gorans was pronounced.

"When we arrived here more than one month ago it was said among the
[Albanians] that some of the Gorans had supported the Serb military here
during the war. They alleged that some of them had taken part with the Serb
paramilitary forces in their activities. ....There was a very strong
repression against these people and the Albanians were saying that the
Gorans were all Serb collaborators and were putting a lot of pressure on
them. We managed to stop this repression and bring these two groups together and start a dialog."

Cetingoz notes that the Gorans insist they are innocent of any collaboration
with the Serbs or wrongdoing against the Albanians. He says the Albanians
should accept that whatever crimes were committed were individual rather
than collective.

A Gora intellectual, speaking to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity for fear
of retribution, says there is no evidence that Gorans killed, raped or
burned down anyone's house during the war.

German KFOR troops, who control southwestern Kosovo, gave the Dragash
district low priority on the grounds that ethnic relations, though
difficult, were nowhere near as tense as elsewhere in the German zone such
as in Prizren, Suva Reka, and Orahovac. Several weeks after KFOR began
moving into Kosovo in June, Turkish KFOR troops were deployed in Dragash.

A German KFOR spokesman in Prizren told RFE/RL over the weekend that all minorities in Kosovo regardless of their size are under pressure to leave
the province.

The spokesman says the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) appears to be building up pressure to create an ethnically pure Albanian Kosovo -- first by chasing out the Serbs and Roma and subsequently the Turks and Gora.

As a result, the area has experienced what Gora residents say were several
dozen ethnically-based incidents. These included redistribution in Dragash
of Goran-owned apartments in one building to Albanian families.

Many Gorans have emigrated this year to other parts of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, and Austria. The outflow began the day the air strikes started on March 24 but turned into a flood after the fighting ended. More than half the estimated 20,000 Gorans in Gora have left. The massive outflow is caused by economic as well as security reasons. Most Gorans are now unemployed.

The Goran intellectual says he will not flee and would prefer to share a
common life with Kosovo's Serbs and Albanians. But his bloodshot eyes and
tense face all betray his fear of what lies ahead.

He and other remaining Gorans say they are not satisfied with how they are
being protected by KFOR. In his words, German KFOR troops sit in bars in
Dragash and Prizren and ridicule how their French counterparts in Mitrovica
are unable to resolve the Serb-Albanian divisions in Mitrovica in northern
Kosovo while they themselves are failing to prevent ethnic harassment in
their own zone.

As in many other parts of Kosovo, UN police have been slow in taking up
their duties in Gora. Although 50 UN police officers are supposed to be
patrolling Gora, only one has arrived so far.

Last Friday was market day in Dragash. A number of Albanians dressed all in black descended on the town from nearby villages and in the course of the
day beat up some seven Gorans.

One UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the UCK organized Friday's assaults in Dragash, sending people into bars and shops to stir up trouble by accusing Gorans of being "paramilitaries" or of having
collaborated with the Serbs. Turkish KFOR troops intervened in at least two
instances, questioning but releasing those involved and telling them not to
return to Dragash. However, at UN insistence Turkish soldiers detained four
men -- two Albanians and two Gorans and took them for further questioning.

The UN and KFOR called a meeting that evening with ethnic Albanian and Goran representatives in a bid to cool tensions and asked the UCK to keep its men out of Dragash.

The UCK rejects the allegations made by UN staffers. A local UCK spokesman, squad commander Ymredin Halimi, tells RFE/RL that Friday's incidents were between civilians and had nothing to do with the UCK. But asked what reassurance the UCK can offer the Gorans, Halimi says the Gorans must decide their own fate:

"We lived together with the Gorans for centuries. But they did not flee with
us when we fled. We were pushed to flee from our homes. But they remained
and supported the Serb regime."

Some UN officials criticize the Turkish KFOR soldiers in Dragash for failing
to stop many incidents or crack down on crime. As with most other KFOR units throughout Kosovo, the Turkish battalion lacks police training to deal with such incidents.

But the UN officials say that had the Turkish soldiers not been present in
Dragash on Friday the violence would have been far worse. As one UN official put it, international forces must quickly provide better security for
minorities. Otherwise, he says, "more terror will come."

Original article
Press Review: "Gazeta Shqiptare"
August 26

Criminal "Strongmen" Leave Tropoja

Most of the criminals in police uniforms have already left the north-eastern
district of Tropoja after the arrival there of special police forces from
Tirana, reported independent daily ‘Gazeta Shqiptare’.

In a Tuesday report from that region, the paper highlighted as significant
the fact that the so-called strongmen of Tropoja had fled as soon as
special forces arrived and that some had found reclusion in remote villages to
escape the state.

It said there were some who might have gone to various towns in Kosovo
or the Albanian capital, Tirana, so as not to fall into police hands.

Following are excerpts from the report:

Tropoja had become a shelter for the majority of Albanian criminals, who
found there a safe base from where they could commit their crimes, turning
the town into a symbol of the rebellion and non-functioning of the state.

Now, the duels between the clans of Haklaj, Hoxhaj and Haxhia are infamous
throughout the country. They have been accused of various crimes, from the
ordinary to participation in the uprising of September 14, 1998.

Since 1997, the town of Bajram Curri and its environs have become a
fortress for the wanted. The town where most killers wore police uniforms or
signed the pay-slips of the commissariats only began to breathe again after
August 5th this year, when some dozens of troops sent from Tirana were
sufficient to cause the local strongmen to disappear.

Within three weeks the special forces succeeded in covering the whole
district of Tropoja from Pac to Kam, and Lekbibaj to Fierza and
Kamenica. They have arrested some of the most wanted persons, while the revenging clans have either left Tropoja or gone into hiding in their villages.

Most of the wanted went to Gjakova, Peja and Prishtina, while some have
gone to Tirana, biding their time.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, Tuesday, August 31, 1999

Targets of terrorism, Pristina's Jews forced to flee

Members of centuries-old kosovo.netmunity mistaken for Serbs or Serb collaborators by vengeful Albanian paramilitaries

Special to The Globe and Mail

Belgrade -- In a seedy hotel across the street from Belgrade's Jewish Museum, the head of Kosovo's tiny Jewish community recalls the day two months ago when Albanian paramilitaries armed with submachine guns came to the door of the Pristina apartment where he and his family lived.

“He told us to get out,” said Cedomir Prlincevic, 61, a small, white-haired man who worked as director of the Pristina regional archive. “We asked him why. He said, ‘My house was burned.’ I said, ‘But I'm not the one who did it.’ He said, ‘I'm not interested. Get out or I'll slaughter

By the end of June, four generations of the Prlincevic family and other Jews were forced to flee Pristina, almost bringing to an end five centuries of Jewish settlement in Kosovo.

While this flight of about 40 people represented but a drop in the sea of an estimated 300,000 non-Albanians who have fled Kosovo -- mostly Serbs, Gypsies, and Montenegrins -- their departure diminishes the former multifaith character of the region.

Many Jews thought they would be spared. When ethnic-Albanian refugees fled Serb attackers this spring, Israel was among the first countries to dispatch mobile hospital units to help the sick. Israeli officials spoke of being able to relate to the plight of refugees driven from their homes for ethnic reasons.

Because Mr. Prlincevic and his family had good relations with Albanians and had protected Albanian neighbours during the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo by Serb forces, they believed they had no reason to flee when Serb forces withdrew. They also believed in the guarantees of the international community and the promises of KFOR, the peacekeeping force in Kosovo led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to protect Serbs and other minorities.

“I had trust in the world,” Mr. Prlincevic said. “I never believed for a minute that I'd be the target of a primitive mass.”

But when heavily armed Albanian paramilitaries arrived, apparently from Albania, the Jews of Pristina found themselves targeted and terrorized by men who either assumed they were Serbs or had collaborated with them.

“It's a real inquisition down there. It's not like you can talk to someone and explain things. Those are wild people.”

The Prlincevics' ethnic-Albanian neighbours were unable to protect them from the paramilitaries.

“I saved two or three Albanian families during the war. When we were leaving Pristina, my neighbour called to me. He said, ‘Neighbour. Forgive me. I couldn't help you. You helped me, but I can't help you.’”

An envoy of the U.S. Jewish Joint Distribution Committee met with Kosovo Liberation Army leader Hashim Thaci to seek protection for Kosovo's Jews. Mr. Prlincevic himself wrote to Mr. Thaci seeking protection. Mr. Thaci issued a letter ordering “the entire Kosovo Liberation Army under
my control to respect and protect all the Jews of Kosovo.” But the intimidation of Jews by paramilitary vigilantes continued unabated.

Efforts to obtain protection from KFOR also proved fruitless. Mr. Prlincevic sought personal protection, as president of the local Jewish community, from a British major. The officer told him he was too busy to talk to him that day.

“I'm not saying that KFOR encouraged this violence,” Mr. Prlincevic said, “but the forces which were supposed to protect all nationalities didn't do their job.”

Almost all of Pristina's Jews left the city during a 10-day period in late June, with the assistance of the Joint Distribution Committee. They are now living in Belgrade and Vranje, where the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia helped them settle. The JDC supports them.

A historian by training, Mr. Prlincevic did research in Ottoman archives in Istanbul on Jewish settlements in Kosovo going back to the 15th century. He says the history of Kosovo Jewry until the Second World War was one of good relations with Albanians, Turks, and Serbs, and that there was a high rate of intermarriage with these groups. His father was Serbian, and his wife,
Vidosava, is a Serb.

In April, 1944, Albanian fascists, acting on Gestapo orders, interned and plundered the belongings of 1,500 of Pristina's Jews, most of whom were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Mr. Prlincevic's mother, Bea Mandil, was one of the few who escaped being deported, but her large extended family was almost wiped out in the Holocaust.

Now in her 80s, Mrs. Mandil is proud she can still speak the Spanish she learned in her parents' home, a remnant from her ancestors who were expelled from Spain in 1492.

Her large family's eight apartments and three houses in Pristina have reportedly been looted and damaged. She now lives in a crowded Belgrade apartment with Mr. Prlincevic and other family

“It's terrible,” said Mrs. Mandil, who was married in 1938. “Sixty years later, having to start again.”

Less than half of Kosovo's pre-Second World War Jewish population of 1,700 survived the Holocaust, Mr. Prlincevic said. Most of those that did emigrated to Israel from 1948 to 1952.

The continuation of more than 500 years of Jewish presence in Kosovo now comes down to four Jews living in the environs of Pristina -- one of Mr. Prlincevic's sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren -- and two Turkish-Jewish families in Prizren, which comprise 22 or 23 members.

Aca Singer, a 76-year-old Auschwitz survivor who is president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia, is pessimistic about the chances for survival of the Kosovo Jewish community. He is disappointed that the Pristina Jews were forced to leave “at a time of peace, with international troops present, and when the international community's representative in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, is a Jew from France.”

Although a few Jewish families from Kosovo fled to Israel on the eve of the NATO's bombardment of Yugoslavia and five young Kosovo Jews are on a paid excursion to Israel to explore living and studying there, efforts by Mr. Singer's organization to get Israel to accept all the Kosovo Jews have been stymied thus far.

He blames Orthodox Jews within the Israeli ministries of religion and the interior for thesituation, saying that they are applying purely religious criteria in defining Jewishness.

Mr. Singer is disappointed that the Kosovo Jews were left out of Israel's efforts to helprefugees during the Kosovo war, when Israel sent its army hospital and humanitarian aid,and took planeloads of ethnic Albanians to Israel.

He was visiting Israel at the time, and pressed interior-ministry officials to relocate Kosovo's Jews to Israel as well. “I said, ‘If there's a problem, then accept them as Albanians, and sort out later whether they're Jews or not.’ They got mad at me.”

For Mr. Prlincevic, however, the prospect of going to Israel -- a region, as he says, with its own ethnic conflicts -- is not heartening. If he must emigrate, he would prefer Canada, but most of all he would like to be able to return home with his family.

“I can't comprehend in my 60th year, or my mother in her 81st, having to start a new life elsewhere. I'd look upon that as a moral death. This doesn't have to do with the Jewish community, it has to do with the right of a citizen to live where he belongs. I belong there, however primitive or undeveloped it is.”

September 2, 1999

Serbs Driven From Kosovo Live Bitterly in Exile


KURSUMLIJA, Serbia -- Srbislav Bisercic, a competent,
bluff and imposing figure who always wore a pistol
when he ran the Podujevo municipal administration in
Kosovo, is now a broken man, ashamed to be in a jobless
exile and hunting for a cheap apartment.

"Yes, I'm depressed," he said. "How could I not be? I left
everything down there, everything, my flat, my house, 20
acres of land, my cattle, pigs and tractor."

Stopped on the street, Bisercic is all smiles at first, but his mood
quickly darkens, and at one point his eyes become red and wet.

"My biggest problem is being jobless, not having work," he
said. "I get my salary, late like everyone else, but I don't know
what the state will do with us, since they haven't made it
possible for us to go back" home to Kosovo.

Kursumlija, a southern Serbian town of 14,000 people just 15
miles north of Podujevo, is now struggling to absorb 7,000
displaced Serbs from Kosovo.

With the school year starting, Serbs who had been living in
Kursumlija's schools are being moved to a tattered local
cultural center; thousands more live with host families or
relatives or in any apartment they can find.

"Eighty percent of Podujevo's Serbs are looking for a flat
here," Bisercic said. Most Kosovo Serbs are getting only
60 percent of their regular salaries from a state with a
severe shortage of cash, its industry smashed by NATO
bombs and 10 years of sanctions.

"Everyone is depressed," said Milivoje Mihajlovic, a Serbian
journalist from Pristina whose parents now live here. "My wife
says, 'I dream every night, and my dreams are in Pristina.'
And I'm the same. I spent my whole life, 40 years there, and
psychologically that's the biggest problem. Everyone asks
everyone else, 'When can we go back?' "

Bisercic, humiliated and distraught, vows to return to Kosovo
soon. Mihajlovic knows better. "It will take years, if ever, for
the pressure to go out of Kosovo," he said. "Everyone needs
to calm down, the Serbs and the Albanians." And both need
to find less aggressive leaders, he conceded.

According to Vesna Petkovic of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees, by last Friday 133,737 displaced
Serbs and Gypsies from Kosovo were registered in Serbia,
having left Kosovo since February, but the agency estimates
the true total was 173,000.

In all of Yugoslavia, including Montenegro, 157,259 people
were registered as displaced, and the total was estimated at

With 500,000 to 700,000 other Serbs displaced from Bosnia
and Croatia, Yugoslavia has more refugees and displaced
people than any other country in Europe.

The policies and nationalist wars of Slobodan Milosevic have
been the prime source of the refugee burden, which the
United Nations refugee agency is working to relieve. This
year, it will spend some $60 million to help those in

Mira Nikolic, Deputy Minister of the Yugoslav Ministry for
Refugees, Displaced Persons and Humanitarian Affairs, said in
a telephone interview that the refugees "need almost
everything: food, shelter, beds, blankets, hygiene products --
it's better to ask what don't they need." She said that the
agency was providing important help, but the biggest problem
now would be fuel for heating in the winter.

Host families, with whom some 85 percent of the displaced
are living, cannot afford the burden, Ms. Nikolic said, so
Belgrade is looking more toward collective housing. The
United Nations is ready to help prepare buildings for the
winter with construction material, beds and heating fuel.

Ms. Nikolic and Ms. Petkovic agreed that Belgrade's policies
toward the Kosovo Serbs had softened. At the beginning,
they were urged to return immediately to Kosovo, and
Belgrade refused to register them or let them enroll their
children in local schools. That has changed, with nearly all
students registered for school, but the displaced are
encouraged to live near Kosovo and are actively discouraged
from trying to settle in Belgrade, where they would be more

Kursumlija is a pleasant but isolated town in the middle of an
agricultural area. There is one large company, Drvni
Kombinat, making wood products, but salaries average only
200 dinars a month, or $20 at the official rate of exchange. A
beer at a cafe costs 50 cents, a sixth of the price in Belgrade.

There is no cellular telephone service as there is in bigger

At the shops, people buy 200 grams, or 7 ounces, of meat at
a time. "If you buy a kilo," or 2.2 pounds, Mihajlovic said,
"they think you're a millionaire."

If anything, the influx of Kosovo Serbs has pushed up prices
a little here, especially for housing, and because the new
arrivals are generally better educated they are often seen as a
threat to the jobs of the locals.

In the small main square, surrounded by parking, there are
many cars with license plates indicating that they are from
Pristina and Podujevo and Pec and Prizren.

"I'm lost," said Caslav Bojovic, 44, who was the principal of a
school for 367 children in Podujevo. "I feel terrible. I don't
know who I am, where I'm going, what I'll do tomorrow."

"We are 'temporarily dislocated people,' " he said bitterly, "and
no one cares very much for us, and there is no chance to go

He shrugged and said: "We all feel like this. Whatever I had
was in my work of 20 years, and it's gone. I was on good
terms with my Albanian neighbors. That hurts me, because
my neighbors call me and say I should not come back, and I
know they are right."

Still, he is angry that Kosovo's Albanians are driving out
Serbs, no matter the provocation by others, under the eyes of
NATO. "Why don't they indict Thaci as a war criminal?" he
demanded, referring to Hashim Thaci, the leader of the
Kosovo Liberation Army.

Bojovic is now looking for a building here to try to reopen his
school, and says the local authorities are open to the idea. "I
can't leave the kids," he said. "And we need to work."

Down the street, at the shabby Evropa Restaurant, the
Kosovo Serbs line up, shamefaced, for a free lunch organized
by the local Holy Trinity Church, with help from Belgrade and
international organizations like the World Food Program. A
section of the restaurant is set aside for the refugees, and
Radovan Rajovic, the chef, provides a balanced meal, usually
a meat and vegetable stew of some kind, salad and bread.
Today, the choice was paprikash, a Hungarian-style veal stew
that actually had chunks of veal.

The restaurant serves 1,000 meals a day to the Kosovo Serbs
in a program that began Aug. 16, said Radoje Milanovic, the
restaurant manager.

Registered refugees have cards that entitle them to the meal,
and their names are checked off. But 80 percent take the food
away with them rather than sit and eat in a group, Milanovic
said. As they leave, their heads are down.

"I wouldn't come at first, but we have to eat," said a woman
in her 50's who asked to remain anonymous. "Of course I'm

Bisercic, the Podujevo official, had insisted that he would stay
in Podujevo. But in the end, he left, on June 21, 11 days after
Yugoslav forces pulled out in long columns from the city,
creating a vacuum that NATO forces did not move in to fill.

"Those Serbs who stayed there are dead," Bisercic said. "I
took three of the last out with me." United Nations officials in
Kosovo confirm that only three Serbs remain in all of
Podujevo, women too old and alone to leave.

Bisercic faults NATO for the vacuum of power, but he also
considers the Belgrade Government erred in allowing one.
"They should not have signed anything until they filled the
territory with international forces," he said.

But asked if he blamed President Milosevic, Bisercic bristled,
even more upset. "I voted for Milosevic," he said. "Don't
touch me there."

Velisa Malevic, 37, was head of the Podujevo tax police. On
the square, wearing shorts and flip-flops and a two-day
beard, he said he and his mother and brother and their
families -- 14 people -- had all moved here, where his wife
was born. In Podujevo, they had two houses and an
apartment, with 10 acres. But the apartment has been taken
by Albanians and the two houses burned, he said.

"I get a salary but I'm not working," Malevic said. "That's the
worst thing."

He said he dreamed about his life before. "It's the biggest
wish in my life to go back." He laughed, then said sardonically
of Kosovo's new rulers, "I believe in the United Nations and
the United States."

He, like the others, insists that the Albanians of Podujevo
were his finest friends and that he protected them as best he
could. "The K.L.A. attacked the Serbs, and the Serbs defended
themselves with guns, and then NATO came and disarmed the
Serbs but not the Albanians, and that's the whole story,"
Malevic said.

When told how ridiculous his version would seem to an
Albanian whose family was murdered by Serbs or who was
driven out of Kosovo by force, Malevic laughed bitterly. "The
Albanians are no angels," he said. "You in the West will find
out soon enough."

His wife, Sladjana, worked at the Fagar factory in Podujevo.
Here, she is back to being dependent on her father while
trying to care for three young children. "I feel ashamed," she
said. "It's very unpleasant."

She said the people from Kosovo were overwhelming the
town. "The people here are more kind to us, since I was born
here," she said. "But they are very distant with the others."

She buried her nose in the hair of her son, Lazar, 4, named
after the Prince who led the Serbs in the famous battle of
Kosovo in 1389. She lifted red eyes and said softly, "We had
everything, and now it belongs to someone else."

Albanian Economic Tribune (
September 3, 1999


TIRANA - Albanian criminals wanted by the police have moved into Kosovo on the heels of the deployment of NATO troops to escape justice, police sources confirmed on Thursday.

A police spokesman said that investigators have compiled a list with the
names of the 72 most wanted criminals believed to have found safe haven in

"When the border checkpoint at Morina was opened, dozens of criminals moved into Kosovo together with hundreds of thousands of Kosovo refugees," an official at the Ministry of Order said. He asked not to be identified.

Sources of the Albanian anti-Mafia investigation body reported that the
criminals seeking refugee in kosovo.netmitted most of the notorious criminal attacks against the state institutions, and were involved in gang warfare.

Reports from Kosovo say that Albanian gangs are already running lucrative
operations, smuggling drugs, cars, petrol and cigarettes.

On the Kosovo roads the mobsters' are easy to spot in their glossy black
Mercedes with tinted windows and no number-plates, and in the flashy
four-wheeled drives registered in Vlora, southern Albania.

Nermin Bashi, the former owner of a bar in the northern Kosovo town of
Mitrovica said Albanian organised crime was already established in the town.
"I have already been contacted by Albanian criminal types about reopening my bar," he said. "The mafia bosses are laying plans for the future even though everything is destroyed for now," he added.

Nermin pointed to a row of cars with no registration plates. "You see... the
KFOR thinks those are vehicles belonging to refugees and that the number
plates were ripped off (by the Serbs), but everyone here knows they are
smuggled stolen cars."

"The Kosovar population is simply trying to survive but the Albanians from
Albania are coming to exploit our misfortune," he charged. "When they have
unloaded their wares here, the Albanian smugglers go back carrying drugs,"
said Nermin, whose views were confirmed by other inhabitants of Mitrovica.

Since 1998, because of military operations in Kosovo, international drug
networks smuggling heroin from Afghanistan to western Europe had temporarily abandoned the so-called "Balkans route" via Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and Italy.

But with the opening of the Albania-Kosovo border, the absence of proper
political institutions and a police force in Kosovo, could encourage a revival of drug trafficking in the province, experts warn.

KFOR reported last month its soldiers had detained many Albanians citizens
charged with looting private property and intimidation.

Albanian prosecutors said that notorious criminals may have been already
arrested by KFOR, but the lack of an extradition agreement makes it
impossible for these criminals to be returned to Albanian justice.

NATIONAL POST, Monday, September 6, 1999

Albanian mafia pounces on Kosovo power vacuum

Profiting from Serb flats: Europe's most feared criminals targeting well-financed aid community

Julius Strauss
The Sunday Telegraph

PRISTINA - The Albanian mafia, among Europe's most feared, is consolidating its grip on Kosovo, imposing taxes on trucks, taking over flats and houses, running drugs and targeting the burgeoning and well-financed aid community.

Taking full advantage of Kosovo's open border with Albania, the gangsters have swiftly filled the power vacuum left by Serb police and militia, setting up operations in cahoots with local criminals.

Albania has long been an incubation house for organized crime. The north is controlled by Rival heavily-armed gangs who operate out of village bases.

During the NATO air strikes they grew fat by fleecing the huge number of international aid workers, journalists and government officials who moved into the area as Kosovar refugees fled over the border.

Once Serb forces pulled out, the streets of the capital, Pristina, and other large towns, teemed with swarthy men in big four-wheel drive vehicles with number plates from Tirana and the gangster towns of Vlore and Bajram Curri.

The mafia is thought to have made a huge profit taking over Serb flats, using ethnic retribution as a convenient cover. Soaring property prices have multiplied their gains. A good flat in Pristina can now cost $75,000.

With most Serb flats now occupied and their contents looted, the organized criminals have begun to target ethnic Albanians and internationals.

Last week two workers for the Danish branch of Caritas, a Catholic charity and aid organization, setting up an office in the western town of Klina were bound and had hoods put over their heads by masked gunmen thought to be from Albania. One was beaten in the chest with a rifle butt and a large sum of money was stolen.

The Albanian mafia is perhaps Europe's fastest growing. With both Kosovo and Albania economic deadspots, young men head west on false papers to join networks in Switzerland, Germany and Italy. The mafias control many of the people-smuggling routes into Europe, as well as running drugs from Asia.

When war broke out between NATO and Yugoslavia in March, the Kosovo Liberation Army, which had always used Albania as a supply point, poured most of its resources into a cross-border campaign against the Serbs. Links between KLA elements and the Albanian mafia were strengthened, and
there are reports that some KLA commanders promised gangsters concessions in a post-war Kosovo in exchange for guns.

A KLA intelligence chief based in Pristina said: "We are criticized for rising crime rates, but we cannot decommission, transform and fight the mafia all at the same time.''

The woeful inadequacy of the United Nations police force -- now responsible for law and order in Pristina and set to take over other parts of the country -- is apparent to even the casual observer.

There is no system of fines or other effective deterrence. International and local residents of Pristina alike openly flout traffic laws and there are few identity cards.

Plans to open a police academy in Mitrovica where UN staff will train locals are fraught with controversy: Last week its official opening was once again postponed.

While the NATO peacekeeping force is generally respected, UN officers are despised for their inefficiency, while their huge salaries, often more than $150,000 (Cdn) tax-free, are a source of widespread envy.

These conditions provide the mafia with easy pickings. Near the Albanian border, trucks have been made to pay "fines'' to gunmen who melt away as soon as a NATO patrol approaches. Ethnic Albanians looking after Serb flats for their owners have been told to hand them over.

One ethnic Albanian student commented: "We didn't want to be in Serbia, but we certainly don't want to become part of Albania.''

Wednesday, September 8, 1999


by Michael Radu

Michael Radu is a Senior Fellow at FPRI. His previous E-Notes on this subject are: "Don't Arm The KLA," April 6, 1999; "Bombs for Peace? Misreading Kosovo," March 26, 1999; Dangerous Incoherence in Kosovo," October 21, 1998, and "Who Wants a Greater Albania?" July 10, 1998.

The war in Kosovo ended a few months ago, but the practice of "ethnic cleansing" is flourishing, this time perpetrated by ethnic Albanians who are proving even more adept at it than the Serbs. Whereas Serbian brutality and the war itself pushed only about half of the Albanian population into temporary exile, fully 90 percent of the non-Albanian minority (which numbered about 200,000 at the beginning of the year) have now left the region -- this, during three months of "peace" and under the oversight of the United Nations and NATO.

Simply and undiplomatically put, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the United Nation's viceroy in Kosovo, France's Bernard Kouchner, are losing their half-hearted struggle to maintain the myth of a "multinational" Kosovo.

The reason: the behavior of the Albanians led by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). First, the KLA and its supporters claimed, probably with some justification, that the Gypsy minority of 30,000 participated in the looting of Albanian property during the war. As a result, the entire Gypsy population was successfully hounded out of Kosovo. The larger Serbian minority has
been subject to murder, harassment, and destruction of Serbian historic monuments, churches, and other property. Almost 300 Serbs have been killed by Albanians since the end of the war.

And yet somehow, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of these crimes, the KLA-led Albanians have succeeded in maintaining the widespread perception that they are merely the "victims" of Serbian brutality, and as such, must be beyond reproach.

The problem is that the KLA wants to have it both ways -- it seeks international recognition as the effective government of Kosovo while simultaneously denying any responsibility for ethnic cleansing. On the one hand, the organization claims to be in control, and its unelected
government claims to be the legitimate authority in Kosovo. It has appointed "mayors," has established what it calls a "police force," and generally acts as if it is the government of a sovereign state of Kosovo -- which has been its stated goal ever since Albania's collapse in 1997 made unification with that country an unattractive option in the short term.

On the other hand, the KLA military commander, Agim Ceku, claims that whatever abuses against non-Albanians have taken place are the work of rogue elements over which his organization has no control. His political boss, the self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the "Kosovo government," Hashim Thaqi, even sheds crocodile tears over the fate of minorities. No matter that KLA commanders were directing "spontaneous" Albanian demonstrations and attacks on French KFOR troops in Mitrovica. KLA commanders are in tight control of most, if not all, armed Albanian groups in Kosovo and thus directly responsible for the killings of Serbs and Gypsies.

Nor has the Albanian leadership earned any credibility for its adherence to agreements it signed. On June 21, 1999, Hashim Thaqi signed an Undertaking of Demilitarization and Transformation by the UCK (the Albanian acronym of the KLA). Since then, it has violated each and every provision of that document. According to point 10 (a), it was to cease firing
allm weapons, and yet Albanians even in Pristina fire at will. Point 10 (d) states that the KLA is not to attack, detain or intimidate civilians; nor is it to attack, confiscate or violate the property of civilians. But the KLA "police" are doing nothing but encouraging and participating in the veritable pogroms that now terrorize the Serbs. Article 23 provides for the KLA to surrender its heavy weapons. It has not, and mortar attacks on Serbian peasants have
killed dozens.

What should be obvious is that these violations are not emotional outbursts by isolated individuals. Rather, they are part and parcel of a long-standing KLA policy of emptying Kosovo of non-Albanians, a policy unchanged since ethnic Albanians enjoyed political autonomy in Kosovo from 1974 to 1989. Consider that when the KLA had temporary control over the Drenica area
in 1998, its first decisions were to ban political parties and expel non-Albanians.

None of this is surprising, and in fact the KLA's deeds are fully consistent with its ideology of authoritarianism and ethnic exclusionism. What is completely inexcusable, however, is the response of the international community. Mr. Kouchner said that he was shocked at what he chose
to call "Albanian revenge attacks," as if history began with the Serbian expulsion of Albanians. And how could General Wesley Clark's willfully ignorant claim that there is no evidence of KLA involvement in ethnic cleansing be interpreted as anything but permission to finish the job?

True, KFOR and Kouchner have few choices at this point, and certainly no pleasant ones. Once NATO went to war portraying Serbs as evil and Albanians as angels, it became impossible to admit that there are no angels in Kosovo, but only a shifting balance of evil against evil. To hope,
as President Clinton did, for a "multicultural and multiethnic" Kosovo, or to lament the zero-sum game played by both Serbs and Albanians, as Kouchner did, is nonsensical.

The Western powers' misplaced good-vs.-evil dichotomy was already evident last October, when the United States and NATO imposed a de facto capitulation upon Serbia by requiring it to cease counterinsurgency operations against the KLA. It continued with the June 1999 agreement
ending the war, which eliminated all Serbian administrative, police, and military presence in Kosovo -- everything, in short, but the pretense that the region was still part of Serbia.

NATO's misjudgment was compounded by the fact that, after it eliminated the Serb presence, it was unprepared to replace it. The porous border with chaotic Albania is left to Italian troops -- tantamount to making it even more open. And there is virtually no international police presence to challenge the KLA, the promised Fijians (!) notwithstanding. But most egregious is the lack of any long-term strategy to deal with the KLA.

The cold reality is that, except for a few tenuous Serbian enclaves (parts of Mitrovica being the largest), Kosovo is on the way to becoming a purely Albanian area under the de facto control of a profoundly antidemocratic, duplicitous and violent organization. And Thaqi and co. are nom doubt aware that as the minority exodus from Kosovo nears completion there will be even
less incentive for KFOR to crack down on the KLA. Worse still, the growth of this totalitarian cancer is being encouraged by KFOR's inability or unwillingness to stop it, and paid for by West European and American taxpayers.

But the costs of the "humanitarian" intervention advocated by Clinton, Blair, and Albright will be measured in more than just dollars. The credibility of NATO, the United States, and the United Nations have all suffered severe damage. And within Serbia itself, the Serbian refugees from Kosovo will join those who left Croatia and Bosnia to create a volatile and vengeful mass
of some 800,000 -- 10 percent of the electorate -- that will be unlikely to support any Serbian government prepared to accept a more democratic and less nationalistic government. Whether Milosevic or the nationalists of Vojislav Seselj will be able to take advantage of these people's frustrations remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that they have left their homes behind, but not their grievances.

NATO's bombs are only as smart as its leaders, and victory in Kosovo has so far gone to the tyrants.


Serbs live in fear in Kosovo's kidnap capital
10:04 p.m. Sep 15, 1999 Eastern

By Andrew Gray

GNJILANE, Serbia, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Until recently an
unremarkable place, this town of 40,000 people is in danger
of making a name for itself as Kosovo's kidnapping capital.

More than 50 Serbs in and around Gnjilane, in Kosovo's
U.S. sector, have been abducted since NATO-led
forces arrived less than three months ago, according to local
community groups.

At the town's Serbian Orthodox Church, volunteers staffing a
help centre for the local Serbs present a neatly printed,
numbered list of alleged victims. They blame ethnic
Albanians from the Kosovo Liberation Army, which denies
any involvement.

``This is a system to scare those who have remained
here, to make them leave,'' said a Serb electrical engineer
who, like all the other volunteers, will not reveal his
name because he fears he could be a kidnapping target
himself for speaking out.

At least one international agency monitoring the problem
sees the church group's figure as 95 percent accurate.

Another, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe, has registered 19 cases -- still more than one
abduction for every week since the peacekeepers came -- and
acknowledges it can't match the church's network of local

International observers agree the incidents of kidnapping
seem particularly high in the Gnjilane region, in
southeastern Kosovo and close to the border with the rest of
Serbia, although collecting crime statistics here is still a
sketchy business.

Getting to the bottom of who might be responsible is a task
which appears to have largely stumped U.S. military
investigators and fills many locals with fear.

The KLA, in the midst of a demilitarisation process after
waging a 16-month campaign against Serbian rule, insists it
is not to blame.

``Actions like this would hurt the KLA most of all,'' regional
commander Ahmet Istufi, known as Rexha, told Reuters
at his headquarters in the town centre. ``There are people
doing this on purpose to create a negative image for the KLA.''

Istufi says he cannot rule out, however, that individual
Albanians may have sought revenge for years of Serb
repression. A wave of retribution has swept across
Kosovo in the wake of the withdrawal of Serb forces,
driven out by NATO bombing.


The Gnjilane area was one of the most peaceful parts of
Kosovo during the KLA's guerrilla campaign and the
NATO bombardment. In theory at least, locals here
should have far less cause for vengeance than other parts of

But Gnjilane is also a rare example of an area in postwar
Kosovo where Serbs and Albanians still live in close
proximity, although not in mixed communities.

``This is one of the few areas with a lot of Serbs left,'' said
Atle Solberg, head of the local office of the U.N. refugee
agency UNHCR. ``If you're a troublemaker, then you know

While 180,000 Serbs across Kosovo have fled in fear,
leaving many areas 100 percent ethnic Albanian,
Gnjilane offers a stage where the old ethnic rivalries can still
be acted out. A quiet area in wartime has become a
dangerous one in peacetime.

Several rocket or mortar attacks have taken place
around the region over the past few weeks. Russian
peacekeepers shot dead three Serbs earlier this month who
had attacked a group of Albanians in the village of

The kidnappings are one more sign of how crime has invaded
ordinary lives in the town of dusty streets and featureless
buildings whose biggest claim to fame until recently was the
presence of a large battery factory.

The Serb church centre's list details the case of a man who
went to buy cigarettes and never came back.

In another case just a couple of weeks ago, kidnappers
stopped the car of two Serbs on their way to work at the
local water purification plant. An ethnic Albanian man
travelling with them was badly beaten.

``Each case is a story in itself,'' said a silver-haired
lawyer at the church centre.

International officials agree at least some of the kidnappings
look like they have been coordinated. ``It does require
a certain degree of orchestration if you do it without
five or six thousand American troops noticing,'' one said.

But who is doing it and why remain a mystery. Outsiders
doubt the church group's claim that not one of the victims is
linked to Serb atrocities but find it unlikely that all the
abductions are cases of summary justice.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has
expressed concern about the abductions and made its own
enquiries, but to no avail so far.

``We're trying to explore all channels to provide families
with information,'' the local head of office James Reynolds

The Daily Telegraph, UK

Old Serb pair live in a state of siege


By Julius Strauss in Podujevo

SOLDIERS from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers are having to mount a 24-hour guard to protect two elderly Serb women, the only survivors of an ethnic Albanian purge of their home town.

The women, in their 80s, are besieged in a flat above the high street of the northern town of Podujevo. Looters and scores of children throw stones at their windows and spit at them in the street. Three or four times a week the soldiers take Jelica Cimburovic and Jelica Milanovic under armed guard to the local shops, but most storekeepers refuse to serve them.

Mrs Cimburovic, 87, said: "We are living in a jail. We don't know anything about what has happened to our relatives since the phones were cut three months ago." Hundreds of Serbs lived in the town then but now the two women - one almost deaf and the other with high blood pressure - are all that stands between Albanian nationalists and their dream of an ethnically pure town.

Six months ago Serbian interior ministry troops backed by Yugoslav army armoured personnel carriers and tanks roamed the deserted streets of Podujevo, barely five miles from Serbia. Most of the 120,000 ethnic Albanians who lived in the area eked out a miserable existence in the shadows in constant fear of arrest, torture or even death at the hands of the Serbian authorities.

That changed when the British arrived. Today the streets teem with traders, shoppers and children. But for the ladies living at 5 JNA Ulica (Street of the Yugoslav National Army) life has all but ended.

To add to the ladies' woes they have now fallen out. Mrs Cimburovic, who took in Mrs Milanovic when she was chased from her own home, now wants her to leave. As the two ladies sat together, Mrs Cimburovic said: "At the beginning it was OK and we even shared a bed. But now I hate her. All she does is smoke and talk a lot. I want her out."

A British military policeman said: "I'm afraid the old dears are having a bit of a domestic." But if Mrs Milanovic moves to her home that will mean more British soldiers and another 24 hour guard.

September 16, 1999

Albanian Mafia, KLA and Kosovo Aid

Scandal of aid crates left on the dockside Kosova refugees were denied
vital supplies of food, medicine and blankets as a result of theft, inefficiency and mafia corruption By John Laughland

In April, readers of The Express joined donors from around Europe in a wave of sympathy for the refugees from the Kosovo war. Food, clothes,
medicines and other goods were sent. But now, in a scandal which is rocking
Italian politics, some of that aid appears to have been sucked into the morass
of criminality from which the Kosovo Liberation Army and its mafia allies in
Albania emerged to fight Yugoslav rule in the first place.

I have recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Italy with the British
Helsinki Human Rights group. We found that for months now, more than 900
shipping containers full of aid have been lying on the docks in Bari, Italy's
major port on the Adriatic coast opposite Albania. They contain medicine,
food, blankets and other items donated by British, Italian and other
organisations. There are a further 1,000 containers lying in Vlore, the Albanian port some 50 miles away.

While there is no doubt that large quantities of aid did get through, there is
some that never reached the refugees who have now returned home anyway.
British donors, who sent aid in the spring, were promised that it would be in
Albania within days. The Italian military had said it would ensure an air bridge from a military base near Milan straight to the Albanian camps. Arcobaleno, the organisation responsible for shipping the aid, is theoretically a non-governmental body but in reality it operates out of the Italian prime
minister's office in Rome. As a result, the prime minister, Massimo D'Alema,
has been severely embarrassed by the scandal and has had to write entire
articles in the Italian press excusing himself.

Mr D'Alema has now promised that the aid will be sent to help earthquake
victims in Turkey instead. But a date has still not been fixed for its
transport. Questions are being asked in Italy by the public prosecutor about the nearly £50 million which Italians donated in cash and which remains unspent. Meanwhile, the Italian social security department is paying thousands of pounds every day in rental for the containers which are lying idle on the dockside.

It is possible that the aid was left at the port simply through negligence.
Certainly, so much flooded into Albania during the Kosovan war that there
was simply not enough space for any more of it in Vlore.

But there is also evidence that organised crime may have been responsible
for diverting some of the aid that did leave Italy. Many of the clothes and
medicines were stolen by the Albanian mafia and can now be purchased - at
market prices -in ordinary shops in Albania. Indeed, according to Sokol
Kociu, a prosecutor in Albania, the millions of pounds worth of aid became
part of an ugly deal between the Albanian and Italian mafias, in which the
Italian mafia paid off the Albanian mafia for various favours, including the
supply of prostitutes.

The scandal demonstrates two things. The first is that the war against
Yugoslavia continues to generate severe fall-out, affecting innocent people.
Because Western governments needed to maintain public support at fever
pitch for their attacks on Yugoslavia, they used the media to dramatise the
humanitarian situation to the fullest possible degree. This meant that the
amounts of cash and goods donated turned out to be vastly in excess of

By the same token, western governments - especially our own -
systematically played down the fact that the KLA was in fact controlling the
refugee camps we saw on our television screens every night. Away from the
cameras, during the war, pimps kidnapped girls from the camps to sell into
prostitution in Italy; and once the war was over, refugees had to pay the KLA
a fee to be allowed to leave the camps and go home. It is inconceivable,
under such circumstances, that aid could have got to the refugees without the
KLA stealing it.

The second point highlighted by the scandal is the stranglehold the Albanian
and Kosovo mafia wields over the Adriatic region. The Strait of Otranto and
the east coast of Italy are its springboards into Europe. Every evening you
can see the motor boats on the beach in Albania waiting to make the short
night hop across the Adriatic into Italy. The strength of the extended family
structure in Albanian society - it is divided into elaborate "clans" - makes it
well suited to mafia activities. In recent years the Albanian and Kosovan
mafias have made great strides in displacing even the biggest Italian mafia

The Albanian and Kosovan mafias now control the traffic of migrants,
prostitutes, cigarette smuggling and drugs into Europe. Interpol confirms that
80 per cent of the heroin market in central Europe has been in the hands of
Kosovo Albanians for years: control of the brothels in Brussels (where Nato
and the EU are based) has also fallen into their hands.

The power of these mafia gangs will be boosted further by the Albanian victory in the Kosovan war because Kosovo has long been a central transition point for the heroin and cocaine trades.

As the chief Italian prosecutor with responsibility for the Albanian mafia in
Italy told me, "Europe is being submerged by a tidal wave of organised crime
from Albania" - a sentiment confirmed by the British National Criminal
Intelligence Service, which warned that Albanian mafia gangs were preparing
to move over here too.

The power of the Albanian mafia is also relevant to the current influx of asylum seekers into Britain - more than 200 people a day are now coming here as refugees. Those who cross the Adriatic have all paid the mafia smugglers between £300 and £500 for the short trip. I have visited a number of these "asylum seekers" in Dover, Calais and in southern Italy in recent weeks: not one of the Kosovo Albanians I met said he or she was a victim of political persecution; they all wanted to come to Britain to work.

Amassive 80 per cent of those who make an initial application for asylum in
Italy never see it through because they travel on immediately to Germany and Britain instead. Because the European Union has abolished border controls on the Continent they can be in Calais within 24 hours. The only significant group suffering real persecution are the Kosovar gypsy refugees, chased out of their homes by Albanians on the rampage. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to go to a richer country like Britain to seek your fortune, it is certainly wrong for the present mass influx to be occurring thanks to an abuse of an asylum process which was set up to help genuine victims of persecution.

The Yugoslav war was fought on the basis that the Serbs were diabolical
beasts and that the Albanians were passive victims. Both visions were
exaggerated for the purposes of propaganda. During the war, this led to
civilian deaths on both sides and to the impoverishment and disruption of the
lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians. But now it has also led to the
swindling of thousands of well-meaning Britons as well.

KLA units "specialised in hunting down Serbs"

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, Sept 19 (AFP) - The Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA), which officially disbands Sunday, had special "Serb-hunting"
units operating even after international peacekeeping troops arrived
here in June, according to two KLA members.
The special KLA units "forced the Serbs out of their homes and
took them off to kill them in discreet places as far as was
possible," said one of the KLA special unit members
"But, if they put up any resistance, they mowed them down on the
spot." said the rebel officer, whose nom de guerre is "the
"Our group of seven men would go to the Serbs, house by house,
and give them between 15 and 30 minutes to get out," the 'teacher'
"Then in came the mopping-up team, 13 of them, with the job of
executing those who stayed behind," he added.
The mopping-up team were "real professionals," said the burly
46-year-old with a Colt 45 pistol protruding from a jacket pocket.
The Kosovo capital of Pristina was "split into four zones, each
with four units that are still at work today. We have been working
in the eastern districts. But now the job has become more
complicated because of KFOR which is protecting the Serbs," he
On June 21 the KLA signed an agreement with NATO to
This forced the KLA to change its tactics to more covert
"We go to see the neighbours of any recalcitrant Serb and they
pass on the ultimatum. Whatever happens, they end up coming out of
their homes. Even if we can't kill them, we can give them a good
beating," the KLA fighter said.
KFOR, he added, "will never be able to protect the Serbs 24
hours a day and it has never picked up any of our men."
Another KLA officer in the eastern Kosovo town of Urosevac
admitted that his mission was to intimidate Serbs but refused to
give any details.
The second man added that any Albanian helping the Serbs
"deserves the death sentence".
This account of systematic intimidation by ethnic Albanians was
confirmed by members of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force that
moved into Kosovo following the end NATO's bombing campaign against
Yugoslavia on June 12.
Sergeant-Major Brian Johnson of the 1st Battalion of the Royal
Irish Regiment contingent in KFOR, which is responsible for
protecting minorities, confirmed the KLA officers' stories.
There were "small elements of the KLA groups who pretend to be
police, who have forged police cards, who are armed and even have
offices," he said.
Added to this were "many criminals who claim to belong to be
Out of a Serb population of some 5,000 in Pristina before the
NATO strikes began in March, only 1,000-2,000 remain, according to
the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
KFOR estimates that two to three families pack up and leave
Pristina every day.
Out of 170 Kosovar Albanians jailed by KFOR since it arrived to
bring peace, "more than half were put away because of intimidation
or violence against Serbs," Johnson said, describing cases of
kidnapping and of elderly Serb women beaten or raped.
Johnson, who said his battalion received an average of 30
distress calls a day from Serbs just after the war, compared with
five now, summed up the KLA intimidation methods in much the same
way as "the Teacher".
'The teacher' now lives with his eight children in the home of a
Serb whom he said he had threatened to kill.
"My KLA commander said that might be a bit noisy and said 'if
you want to kill him, do it with a knife, it'll be more discreet.'
"As I don't really know how to do that, I let him go," he said.
'The teacher' also took possession of a restaurant of a Serb
neighbour who, he laughed, "made me promise not to damage anything
as he handed over the keys".
He, like many KLA officers, says openly that he dreams of a
Kosovo without Serbs.
Meticulously, he entered into his little red teacher's notebook
the names of the 79 Serbs killed by his unit from the beginning of
the war, noting their dates of birth and details of the arms and
money, in marks and dinars, taken from their bodies.
"When I found a mass grave in Lescovac," in the east of the
province "with 46 Albanians who had been decapitated or had limbs
cut off, I decided to kill every next Serb I met," he recalled
At the beginning of September he left the KLA. It was time for
him to back to his old job, educating children as a teacher.
The deadline for full demilitarization of the KLA is midnight
(2200 GMT) Sunday.