Violent Wave of New Ethnic Attacks in Kosovo

  1. U.N. peacekeepers unprepared for violence of Kosovo conflict 03/21/04
    Nicholas Wood
    New York Times

    Lipjan, Serbia-Montenegro - Bogdanka Miric's eyes looked tired and red. Just below her waist, her 6-year-old daughter clung to her legs for comfort as Miric recounted how Wednesday she, her family and about 20 of her neighbors, all ethnic Serbs, escaped from their apartment block as an ethnic Albanian mob rampaged through the town.

    They escaped, they said, by jumping from a second-floor balcony onto a waiting military truck. On the other side of the communist-era concrete building, gunmen fired from nearby buildings into the apartments. Miric said she and her neighbors managed to get away unharmed, and they are now staying in a Serbian enclave north of the town.

    The family's narrow escape mirrored that of hundreds of other Serbs across this province, illustrating the apparent inability and failure of the U.N. mission that governs the region to provide protection to the people here.

    The violence, which seemed initially to be a spontaneous response to the death of three Albanian boys who drowned in a river - an incident Albanians said occurred when the boys were chased by Serbs, was described by U.N. police officers and peacekeepers as being well planned and organized.

    It was unclear four days after the first clashes whether those behind the marauding mobs had succeeded in altering the ethnic balance of the province. In the short term, the burning of Serbs' homes and churches forced many Serbs to leave areas that were once ethnically mixed.

    At least one town, Kosovo Polje, just outside Pristina, the regional capital, had no Serbs left. But in other areas, including Lipjan, Serbian men were returning to their homes to inspect the damage, and possibly to stay.

    The number of Serbs now believed to have been killed in the violence is lower than had been reported earlier. The United Nations says now that the official death toll is 31, though police officials say they have found 28 bodies, 15 of which are known to be Albanians and seven Serbs.

    The arrival of up to 2,000 new troops in the province, to reinforce the 17,000 already there, came as police officers and soldiers admitted they were ill- equipped to respond to the unrest.

    "No one had any idea it would be so violent," said Angel Feliciano, a 39-year-old police sergeant from Milledgeville, Ga., who was working with the U.N. police in Lipjan. "We felt there was nothing we could do but sit back and watch the destruction."

    Feliciano said he and about 14 other officers tried to prevent a crowd of several hundred people from reaching a group of houses owned by Serbs but that the police were outnumbered. Three armored personnel carriers stood by, they said, but the Finnish troops in them said they had received no orders to back up the police.

    Capt. Ari Lehmuslehti, a member of the Finnish contingent, said its troops had no equipment to control the crowds when the violence started. Over the next two days, however, he said he and his troops helped rescue 300 Serbs besieged in their homes, including the Mirics and their neighbors.

    In Mitrovica, where the first outbreaks took place, similar events were described by witnesses. Local journalists and U.N. officials said angry crowds swept aside small groups of police officers who attempted to bar their way.

    A spokesman for the peacekeeping forces said they did not have enough troops to deal with the scale of the violence.

    "When NATO first came to Kosovo, we had around 50,000 troops," said Lt. Col. James Moran. "Now we are a small peacekeeping force. But when you have 30 to 40 percent of the population out on the streets, there is not much you can do about it."
  2. 5 Comments

  3. by   donmurray
    I thought we finished building THAT nation years ago!
  4. by   nekhismom
    It never ends with some peace-keeping missions, does it?
  5. by   NurseHardee
    How about this news item, Nekhismom? NH

    Iraq Said Spark for UN Kosovo Police Fight, 3 Die
    Sat Apr 17
    By Shaban Buza

    KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Two Americans and a Jordanian were shot dead in Kosovo Saturday when emotions over Iraq (news - web sites) apparently boiled over into a gunbattle between members of the U.N. law enforcement mission.

    U.N. police spokesman Neeraj Singh said two U.S. police officers and a Jordanian were killed and 10 Americans and one Austrian wounded in the shooting.

    The lethal firefight between fellow members of the U.N. force was unprecedented in five years of peacekeeping in Kosovo, where police of some 30 nations make up the international force of around 3,500.

    The 10-minute shootout took place in the U.N. compound in ethnically divided Mitrovica -- a city that is more commonly the scene of clashes between Serbs and Albanians, in which U.N. police and NATO troops intervene to keep the peace.

    Initial reports that the shooting centered on a detention center in the compound were inaccurate. But the U.N. said the dead and wounded included both police and prison staff.

    The deputy head of the Serb hospital in Mitrovica, Milan Ivanovic, said one of the dead was an American woman, who was hit along with four female U.S. police colleagues.

    U.N. police sources said four Jordanian police officers had been arrested in connection with the shooting, but could give no further details on the cause.

    A police source said it began with a row over Iraq. Singh said the U.N. was still investigating the possible motive.

    The multinational U.N. police force is backed by the NATO-led KFOR military mission numbering about 20,000 troops.

    "I am deeply shocked and dismayed at the unfortunate death of dedicated professionals who have come such a great distance to help Kosovo on its road to the future," the province's U.N. governor Harri Holkeri said in a statement.

    U.N. Police Commissioner Stefan Feller said he was "saddened at this tragic incident" and promised a thorough investigation.

    There had been no visible sign of serious strain between Western and Arab or Christian and Muslim members of the peace mission. An international source said the spark that caused the shooting might turn out not to be connected with Iraq.

    "This attack was organized," a U.S. policeman guarding the wounded at Mitrovica hospital told Reuters. "I'm sorry that none of the services was able to prevent it..." he added, without elaborating on who might have organized an attack, or why.

    It was the second major jolt to the international peace mission in Kosovo in a month. In mid-March, Albanians rioted against the Serb minority after the drowning of three Albanian boys, setting fire to nearly 300 homes and two dozen churches.

    The U.N. and NATO, which later said the riots had been orchestrated by Albanian extremists bent on expelling the remaining Serbs, said 19 people were killed, some shot in clashes with the peacekeepers.

    The international community in Kosovo has for some time feared a backlash by Albanians determined to press their demand for independence five years after NATO drove Serb forces from the province.

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    Quote from nekhismom
    It never ends with some peace-keeping missions, does it?
  6. by   maureeno
    the tragic irony
    peacekeepers sitting around
    talking about things back home in the Middle East
    become enraged
    and kill Americans

    man o man are we in for it
    Last edit by maureeno on Apr 18, '04
  7. by   NurseHardee
    They might also have been talking all along about where they were stationed, too? That is yet another American-made mess and the other troops there from other parts of the world, might not be so happy about what they have been participating in on behalf of the US? So this hostility probably didn't just begin last week. NH
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    Quote from maureeno
    the tragic irony
    peacekeepers sitting around
    talking about things back home in the Middle East
    become enraged
    and kill Americans

    man o man are we in for it
    Last edit by NurseHardee on Apr 19, '04