Rebels Threaten Violence Against Kosovo Capital
- Sherrie Gossett Staff Writer
- 2005 11 Nov
The threat, carried by local media, follows increasing violence against international forces in Kosovo and may lead to an alliance between armed rebel groups and jihadist forces, according to a former security chief from the region.
Rebels have blown up several vehicles belonging to the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the Kosovo Protection Service (KPS), leading UNMIK to warn employees to check their vehicles for bombs before starting the engines. (Click here to view UNMIK internal memo on vehicle tracking.)
Prior to the bombing of vehicles, graffiti across Kosovo warned "UNMIK get out!" Last month U.N. vehicles were defaced to read "FUND," which is Albanian for "The End." Internal U.N. emails obtained by Cybercast News Service described the development as "extremely serious." (Click here and here to view photos of defaced vehicles)
Cybercast News Service has learned that NATO's Kosovo Force has an emergency plan called "Operation Safe Haven" in place to evacuate internationals. The news organization has also obtained the first communique issued by the Kosovo Independence Army (KIA). It was signed on Oct. 5 and delivered by children to UNMIK police headquarters in Pristina, according to local and U.N. sources. (Click here to view communique)
The KIA promised to apply the "rules of war" and execute parliamentarians who failed to declare independence by Oct. 15. "Kosovar quislings" (collaborators) would be executed as well, the KIA stated. "They don't deserve one bullet in their forehead but seven."
On Friday the KIA ordered UNMIK, which it labeled the "modern occupier," to release all "war hostages" taken since 2000 or UNMIK officers and those who apply U.N. laws and regulations would "suffer."
"[F]or six years you betrayed us," the communique read.
International judges, prosecutors and investigators have also been ordered to "retreat" from Kosovo.
The existence of the KIA was at first denied by UNMIK and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), but later confirmed by UNMIK Police Commissioner Kai Vittrup. KFOR is a NATO-led international force responsible for establishing and maintaining security in Kosovo.
While the KIA is considered a new rebel group, it is made up of former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, said Thomas Gambill, a former security chief for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the eastern region of Kosovo. OSCE is a regional security group made up of members from 55 countries and operating under the authority of the United Nations. "All rebel groups are offshoots of the KLA. It's just the KLA renamed," Gambill said.
The threatened destabilization of Kosovo comes at a sensitive time, as the United Nations is making preparations for final status talks on the troubled Serbian province.
Gambill believes that Albanian frustration over the independence issue could lead armed rebels to forge an alliance with al Qaeda. Both groups want the international presence out of Kosovo and al Qaeda has a history of attempting to destabilize the Balkans region where it wants to gain influence.
Al Qaeda activity in neighboring Albania has been a primary concern to Gambill since 2000, given the porous borders and intelligence indicating that terrorist training camps were operating in the country. Two months ago, Abdul Latif Saleh, an alleged associate of Osama bin Laden and a resident of Albania, was listed by the United Nations as a terrorism financier. Bin Laden gave Saleh $600,000 to create extremist groups in Albania in order to destabilize the country, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Cybercast News Service, meanwhile, has learned that a bomb which exploded in a downtown market in the town of Strpce last Thursday was a time-triggered IED (improvised explosive device) planted beneath the truck owned by a Kosovo Albanian from Kacanik. The man had gone to the market to sell goods and was injured by the blast. According to Gambill the man was warned recently by members of the KIA to stop doing business with Serbs. No one has declared responsibility for the attack.
"The people are frustrated and scared. Tensions are high." said Gambill who maintains sensitive contacts with officials and Serbian and Albanian locals.
The threats are played down, Gambill said, because "it does not suit the internationals to have a serious crisis such as this at the time when they are sending out reports on how much improvement has been made in Kosovo."
"The time for the KIA-KLA to join with al Qaeda seems to be close at hand," said Gambill. "The Albanian and American love affair will be put to the test."
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