link to alb-net
|Updated at 12:30 PM
on July 6, 1999
Kosova Albanians, Serbs Seek End To
Violence - Sign a Joint Statement (Reuters)
By Michael Roddy
PRISHTINA, Kosova (Reuters) - Kosovar Albanian and Serb leaders negotiating for the first
time since the end of NATO bombing of Yugoslavia issued a joint appeal Friday for an end
to escalating violence in Kosova.
"We urge all Kosova inhabitants, whether of civilian or military status, to refrain
and to actively discourage others from any acts of violence against their neighbors,"
the statement said. "Such actions are unacceptable...those responsible will be
brought to justice."
The statement, signed by leaders of an Albanian rebel-led interim provisional government,
the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Kosova Serb opposition Democratic Movement, also
strongly condemned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
"Both sides condemn the crimes of the Milosevic regime in Kosova," the statement
said, adding that there was no such thing as a natural hatred between the peoples of
The statement came as the result of what the United Nations special representative to
Kosova, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said was an "extraordinary and emergency
meeting" that he called to bring the two sides together to address the continuing
arson, murder and harassment in the turbulent southern Serbian province.
After talks lasting some seven hours -- five more than expected -- the two sides agreed on
a joint text which Vieira de Mello said would be aired on local radio and Albanian
television "repeatedly" to try to scale down the violence.
Some of the flood of returning ethnic Albanian refugees have found friends and relatives
murdered and their houses and businesses burned. Serbs have either left the province or
are trying to carve out enclaves.
The statement also said that the identities of prisoners who had been transferred to jails
outside Kosova should be made public immediately and the prisoners should be returned to
Ethnic Albanians fear that an estimated 3,000 of the province's men arrested during the
11-week NATO bombing and believed to be held in Serbia could be subject to torture or be
In addition, the statement called for an end to the exodus of Serbs and Montenegrins,
thousands of whom have left fearing revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians, saying:
"Peace can only be built on justice, not on revenge."
Archbishop Artemije, one of the signatories for the church, said the talks had taken
longer than expected because of the upheaval in Kosova during the bombing.
"After everything that happened in Kosova, especially in the last three months, and
with what is going on now it was not quite easy to reach a common text," Artemije
Hashim Thaqi, a Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) leader who is now the prime minister of a
KLA-dominated provisional government, said the statement had sought to focus on Kosova's
future and not to dwell on the crimes of the past.
"Today we did not deal very much with the past, as you can see we spoke more about
the present and the future," he said.
"The fact itself that the regime of Milosevic is condemned by the people of Kosova,
not only by Albanians, says quite a lot about this declaration," Thaqi said.
"And this means that he not only killed Albanians but he also brought crimes and
genocide against other people. Let us see that more than 80,000 Serbian people have left
Kosova not under pressure of Albanians but from the fear that has been created by
Thaqi, responding to questions after the meeting, said he thought there could be a place
for Serbs in Kosova, though ethnic Albanians made up 90 percent of the population before
the bombing and the Serb authority in the province has been largely dismantled.
"Albanians and Serbs have always lived together in Kosova," he said.
"They knew how to live together and they will know how to live again. They will have
a prosperous future in Kosova but of course they will have to have an internal
democratization, to fight revenge and hostilities and to come together and live together.
"This is the future of both Albanians and Serbs who live together in Kosova."
The text of the statement is as follows:
Today, we have met at the headquarters of the UN Mission in Kosova to urgently address a
problem that affects all the people of Kosova: people who want to return to their homes
here, people who want to stay here, people who have returned in the past few weeks, people
who have remained here throughout recent tragic months.
We have met to discuss security and human rights; in order for the human rights of all
people to be exercised they must be free of fear. They must feel safe staying in their
homes, going to their jobs, going to their places of worship, visiting friends and family,
taking their exams at university, and going about all the other tasks of everyday life.
We know that we have to urgently address this problem if we want to realise our joint goal
of a civil society in Kosova, a society where no one has to have fear for his lie, his
family, his job, or his home just because of his ethnicity or belief. We are determined
not to look back but to look forward. In this respect we reach out to all national
communities living in Kosova. In particular, we want to stop the exodus of Serb,
Montenegrin and other civilians from Kosova and encourage the return of those who have
We have a rich common heritage. We want to preserve it. We therefore call on everyone:
stay in and come back to Kosova. KFOR and UNMIK have promised us that they would do their
utmost to secure your safety and to guarantee your future in your homeland. We trust them
and we urge you to do likewise.
Both sides condemn the crimes of the Milosevic regime in Kosova.
Persons suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity shall be brought to justice.
We support the role of ICTY. Peace can only be built on justice, not on revenge.
We urge all Kosova inhabitants, whether of civilian or military status, to refrain and to
actively discourage others from any acts of violence against their neighbours. Such
actions are unacceptable. Those responsible will be brought to justice.
We insist that the identity of all prisoners that have been transferred to prisons outside
Kosova be made public and that they are immediately returned to Kosova to be handed over
to UNMIK to be tried or released as appropriate. We insist that political proceedings now
being held in Serbian courts cease. We insist that all political prisoners be released
immediately. We also insist that all People that are missing be also immediately handed
over to UNMIK. We support the joint efforts already undertaken by human rights activists
in the Albanian, Serb and other communities, together with UNMIK and other nternational
organizations, to realise these demands.
The road to reconciliation will be long and difficult. There is no such thing as natural
hatred among people in Kosova.
We have to work together. As first steps we have agreed today:
-to establish a joint immediate line of communication among ourselves, UNMIK and KFOR and
to hold regular meetings such as today's;
-to issue joint messages of cooperation and reconciliation on TV and radio;
-to establish a joint crisis task force, together with UNMIK and KFOR, to be able to
quickly address security problems whenever they occur including in and around historical
and religious sites and to organize an early meeting among religious and spiritual leaders
to call for tolerance and respect for religious sites;
-and to establish, with the help of UNMIK and KFOR, local joint committees involving
different national communities to devise concrete pilot projects to promote the gradual
return of all people to their homes, starting with Mitrovica and Gnijlane which can then
be extended to other areas. end
The statement was signed on the Kosova Albanian side by Kol Berisha (L), Rexhep Qosja
(LBD), Blerim Shala (Independent) and Hashim Thaci (UCK),
and for the Kosova Serbs by Bishop Artemije and Father Sava of the Serbian Orthodox Church
in Kosova, along with Dushan Ristic and Momcilo Trajkovic for the Serbian Resistance
Serb Priests Help Sneak out Arkan`s
Men From Peja While Sen. Bob Dole Visits the Town (KosovaPress)
Peja, July 6, 1999 (Kosovapress)
Dusko Milacic, a notorious member of the murderous Frankie Unit organized by Arkan was
snuck out of Peja yesterday by Priests from the monastery there. As Bob Dole, the
ex-Senator from the United States, was paying a visit to the devastated city, a number of
witnesses spotted Milacic, surrounded by priests driving out of the monastery in a car
marked "Press" to avoid detection. One of the witnesses who spotted Milacic,
Dole`s personal interpreter, notified Italian soldiers present that a known rapist and
mass murderer was speeding away towards Montenegro.
Italian officials, when asked later of the incident, claimed no knowledge of Milajcic´s
where abouts nor his previous residence in the monastery. Local KLA officials had informed
the Italian leadership in Peja more than two weeks ago of Milacic and others and even
provided photographs. The incident has angered local Kosovars and is bound to raise
questions about the sincerity of the Serb Orthodox Church and its leadership in addressing
the crimes conducted in their name over the last ten years.
The United Nations and KFOR are trying to bring elements of the Serb leadership, including
the Church to the negotiation table with the KLA and other Kosovar parties. After an open
joint statement a few days ago in which the Serb Church distanced itself from the crimes
committed in Kosova, the smuggling of a known war criminal to Serbia will only reconfirm
Kosovar Albanian´s skepticism. In Peja alone local officials have boxes filled with
personal photographs taken from dead Serb paramilitaries demonstrating how local priests
actively took part in the organization of ultra right wing parties led by, among others,
Voyslav Sesel. With Albanians learning of this latest act of collaboration between ultra
nationalist paramilitary soldiers and the Church the goal of a harmonious multi-ethnic
Kosova envisioned by the UN and KFOR will be that much harder to achieve.
IOM Will Begin operations inside Kosova
Prishtina, July 6, (Kosovapress)
The Chairman of IOM, (International Organization for Migration) spoke at a press
conferecne today about his organizations plans in Kosova. Mr. McKinnly stated that
IOM, which has over 50 years of experience with assisting refugees in reestablishing their
lives, is making preliminaary studys into establishing a base in Prishtina. IOM plans to
work together with the UN, KFOR and local organizations to help in the return of refugees
who are streaming in from Macedonia and Albania; help in reintroducing individuals to a
civilian life (this is namely intended for KLA soldiers); to help the UN prepare
documentation for the hundreds of thousands of Kosovars whose passports and identification
papers were taken from them by Serb police; and establish a number of community projects
which will help migrants adjust to their lives in a devastated land.
Mr. McKinnly said IOM is this week beginning to organize the return of the more than
80,000 deportees who are living in third countries. This will take place through Shkup
Macedonia and is on a voluntary basis. McKinnly, when asked by Kosovapress what will be
the value of the documentation he hopes to create for Kosovars, in particular in the need
for Kosovars to be allowed to travel abroad, he siad there are many possible ways to
accomplish this but such questions have yet to be raised in the general meetings he has
conducted in Tirana and Prishtina. At the present moment, Kosovars without European
passports are not able to travel abroad.
Macedonia demands Kosovars obtain a visa first, something they are unlikely to get since
that would mean travelling to Belgrade and most destination countries no longer want to
accept Kosovar civilians. Mr. McKinnly said that the only two places that may be open to
Kosovars for the near future is Albania and Montenegro.
Russian General wished to meet with the KLA
Rahovec, July 6 (Kosovapress)
A Russian general, accompanied by high level officials sought to meet with the commander
of the KLA´s 124th Brigade located in Pashtriku. The Russians were ready to place a
battalion in Rahovec and Prizren. Ismet Tara, vice commander of the 124th Brigade,
responded to the request by saying the people of the area do not accept the deployment of
Russian troops in their country.
Local inhabitants have had recent run-ins with Russian troops, in particular in Rahovec,
as they served as volunteers in the Serb offensive, killing alongside Serb soldiers,
hundreds of locals. Tara informed the Russian delegation that the population will identify
the Russian Battalion proposed to enter the region as the same as Serb soldiers and are
therefore not welcome. Tara also said that without the presence of German authorities
there will not be any official meeting between the KLA and the Russians.
During this meeting, it was suspected that one of the officers who accompanied the Russian
General was actually a Serb officer.
Thaçi : Mitrovica will not be divided
Prishtina, July 4, (Kosovapress)
"The current situation in Mitrovica is serious" declared the Prime Minister of
the Provisional Government of Kosova, Hashim Thaçi, during a press conference today in
Prishtina. In relation to recent tensions, there are a few positive signs that the
situation is stabilizing in the city of Mitrovica where armed Serbs are still controlling
the northern part of the city. The international community in particular NATO members have
expressed their determination that Kosova will not be divided.
On the other hand, the case of Mitrovica is an example of the attempt to divide Kosova,
but NATO officials insist that there will be no such division permitted. Hashim Thaçi,
expressed similar sentiments declaring today "that in no way will Mitrovicas
division stand and the Provisional Government of Kosova is working closely with
representatives of the international community present in Kosova to resolve this
issue." According to Thaçi, "this is a very serious issue but it is a matter of
days in which this tension will subside." He added catergorically that "We will
not permit the loss of one handful of Mitrovicas soil.
Serb War Criminals Surrounded by KFOR in Rahovec
Rahovec, July 4, (Kosovapress) NATO troops have surrounded a Serb enclave in a town in
Kosova, waiting to arrest a group of Serb war crimes suspects hidden within it. In what
has become a stand-off between NATO and the Serbs, Dutch and German tanks, armoured cars
and troops are blocking all entrances to a group of houses surrounding the Orthodox church
at Rahovec, in central Kosova.
The Serbs fled here from other parts of Rahovec, and from outlying villages, fearful of
attack by ethnic Albanians when Serbian forces pulled out late last month. But NATO says
that among them are between 10 and 20 Serbs wanted for war crimes committed in the town
and surrounding countryside, where some of the worst of the war's atrocities have been
The Serb civilians say they are waiting for NATO to give them an escort out of the town to
Serbia proper. "We just want to leave," said one woman standing at the unmarked
border that separates this tiny ghetto from the rest of the town. "NATO will not give
us an escort." NATO says they will give armed escorts to the civilians - but will
seize the suspects.
"We are standing by to give safe passage to the Serbs, we will escort them east and
will hand them over to the British who will ensure safe passage," said Capt Mike Bos
of the Dutch army. "There are between 10 and 20 people in there who are suspected of
war crimes. We have blocked all roads leading out of there. We are not going to go in
there, but if they try to get out, they will be arrested."
In a show of force, Dutch army self-propelled guns have been deployed in the town centre,
with more armour on checkpoints leading to Rahovec manned by German troops.
NATO is refusing to give details of the suspects, but they are believed to include Serb
paramilitary soldiers and police who stabbed one man to death. Rahovec was for many months
the scene of battles between guerrillas of the Kosova Liberation Army and Serb forces. In
March and April, Serbs in the area took grim reprisals against the Albanian population
during the ethnic cleansing of the region.
In one house, nicknamed the "sex dungeon", in the town centre there is graphic
evidence of detention, torture and rape. In the mud floor of the basement, wooden stakes
have been driven into the ground with ropes, apparently used to bind suspects, still
NATO sources say the Serb civilians are being forced to stay in the enclave by the
suspects, who include commanders of police and paramilitary units, and are using them as
For the suspects, the only alternative to passing NATO checkpoints is to try and escape
through the woods and hills of Drenica, a stronghold for KLA units. Rahovec has been a
flashpoint since last summer, when the KLA seized the town and the Serb population fled.
Serb army units then re-took the town in bloody fighting, but skirmishing continued around
several villages south of the town for many months.
The town is 10 km north-east of a string of mass graves around the village of Krusha e
Madhe, the scene of an extensive slaughter of Albanians by Serb forces in the spring.
For NATO, the decision to make arrests, even before formal war crimes indictments are
issued, marks a new stage in co-operation with the International War Crimes Tribunal in
After the Bosnian war ended, Hague prosecutors watched in frustration as the NATO-led
force that arrived to garrison the country studiously avoided arresting the 78 suspects
indicted, fearing retributions.
This time, say sources from The Hague, NATO has acted quickly. Keen not to let suspects
get away, troops in Kosova are now instructed to arrest people merely on suspicion of
their being war criminals - and hold them for investigation.
The Hague has issued no formal indictments for the Serbs in Rahovec, with war crimes
investigators still bogged down at other atrocity sites across the province. As for
Rahovec, the Serbs appear to be dug in for the long haul. They have asked for food
deliveries, a request NATO is considering.
RTP staff head back to the Radio
Television Prishtina building but KFOR does not allow them in (Radio21)
Prishtina radio and television staff headed today to the Press and media palace in the
centre of the town to return in their jobs, but KFOR didn't allow them.
The staff gathered at around 9.00 in front of the building, but they were stopped by KFOR
Martin Çuni, representative of a Coordination Council, presented the platform of talks of
the council with the representatives of the UN Mission in Kosova and KFOR.
RTP staff asked to be allowed to be again on the air with programs in Albanian in the
radio and television, from which they were forced out on July 5, 1990.
They also stressed that the Press and Media Palace as well as the transmitting
frequencies, are properties of the people of Kosova.
Prishtina radio and television has four primary TV networks and 5 primary radio networks,
registered from the international radiodefusion organizations, as well as secondary
networks for broadcasting radio and TV programs.
According to the platform, the details for the continuation of work of Prishtina radio and
television, will be prepared in cooperation with the representatives of the UN Mission in
Kosova and KFOR, based on the national structure of the population of Kosova.
General Jackson expresses his regrets and apologies
for the death of two Albanians by KFOR during the celebration of the Kosovar Independence
Prishtinë, July 3, (Kosovapress) Following last nights incident in which KFOR
soldiers killed two Albanians and injured two others, KFOR commander Mike Jackson
expressed to the commander of the Llap operative zone, Rrustem Mustafa-Remi his profound
regrets. They met today upon the request of General Jackson. Agim Çeku, Chief of Staff of
the KLA also attended the meeting.
Commander Remi expressed his concern over the uncontrolled behavior of some KFOR soldiers
towards Albanian citizens, in particular, towards KLA soldiers and their superiors. Some
incidents between KFOR troops and Albanian civilians and personnel have been categorically
stated as unacceptable. Remi added that these acts increase the tension between KFOR and
In relation to the incident last night which resulted in the death of two KLA soldiers,
Fahri Bici and Avni Liman Dudi, and the injury of two other civilians, Commander Remi,
said this was an undisciplined attacked and was unacceptable coming from the allies of the
These actions are not necessary, said Remi, "because, based on information gathered
from eyewitnesses, KFOR soldiers were not in danger. Last night thousands of citizens were
in the streets to celebrate the victory over a common enemy. Our citizens were celebrating
together with KFOR soldiers. This joy turned to death due to an irresponsible act taken by
the KFOR patrol.
"I expect from you that those who committed this act to be held responsible. I am
afraid that among your soldiers there is a lack of respect for KLA soldiers. It is in our
common interest to work together in a mutually respectful atmosphere between the KLA, the
Kosovar civilians and KFOR troops. We must do everything to make sure these acts will not
be repeated again."
KFOR commander Jackson expressed his regrets and apologized for last nights
incident. "Our soldiers did not know that they were KLA soldiers. They felt they were
in danger and they opened fire. "Commander Jackson promised the case would be
investigated fully with all necessary measures taken.
Commander Remi also wanted to clarify with his counterpart the process of transforming the
KLA into a regular army. "We insist, as the people of Kosova, to keep the continuity
of our army. We will not disband our troops under no condition but we will maintain this
organization until we are able to transform ourselves into a regular army as the agreement
After Scotland Yard Inquiry, a
Kosova Village Buries 64; Serbs Had Killed 7 Children Under 12 (NY Times)
By JOHN KIFNER
Bella Cerke, Kosova -- This ruined little village buried its dead Monday in a bitter,
Reburied them, actually.
Most of the 64 people laid to their final rest on a sun-baked hilltop this afternoon had
been hastily, furtively buried at night by other villagers near where they were reportedly
shot dead by Serbian forces early on the morning of March 25, hours after the NATO bombing
The well-documented account of a massacre here that day, along with reports of other
massacres in a chain of villages along the main road running southeast from Djakovica,
marked the beginning of the violent Serbian campaign that seemed intended to purge Kosova
of its Albanians, 90 percent of the province's population.
The bodies of the victims in Bela Crkva (pronounced BELL-a SER-ka) were carried from a
makeshift morgue set up by war crimes investigators in a winding caravan of farm tractors
and trucks. It was a ceremony so emotional that the local custom banning women from
funerals was set aside by a village decision. And the crowd of thousands was packed with
weeping, wailing women in white head scarves of mourning.
For six days, Chief Superintendent John T. Bunn of Scotland Yard had been digging up the
first rough graves. He was camped in a white tent down a nearly impassable mud track in a
field by a river where villagers say most of the killings occurred. The "crime
scene," as he called it, where the river runs under a railroad bridge, is one of six
murder sites listed by the international war crimes tribunal in its indictment against
President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and four of his top associates for crimes
The portly British detective, wearing big black rubber boots in the mud, climbed up the
railroad embankment the other day and pointed out a big trench where 32 bodies had been
exhumed and other, smaller graves among the bushes, trees and hedges. He described how
villagers had turned out to help and had driven the bodies to the morgue in a procession
He finished his investigation for the war crimes tribunal on Saturday evening and turned
the bodies over to the villagers for burial.
Monday, Superintendent Bunn stood quietly to the rear of the ceremony with a few of his
team members and summed up his findings briefly.
"There were 60 bodies, all shot," he said. "There were seven children under
12, including a 4-year-old. There were three women, one over 60. They were killed in
individual little groups along the river. It was all quite deliberate." Four people
who were killed elsewhere were also buried Monday.
Professionally, he said in his matter-of-fact tone, the investigation had been "quite
satisfying." Then, with a bit more emotion, he added that he was pleased that
"these people, whose relatives have been shot and taken away from them, can grieve in
a proper fashion."
The day began with a line of tractors and trucks pulling up to the makeshift morgue that
the British had set up in an empty warehouse on the highway intersection at the village of
The bodies were taken out of the morgue in black plastic body bags -- with evidence tags
marked ''Metropolitan Police" still attached -- and loaded onto rough pine pallets,
for Muslims are not buried in coffins. A small red-and-black Albanian flag with a
double-headed eagle was placed on each body bag.
The villagers gathered in the yard of the local school throughout the morning. A line of
men stretched along the fence at the entrance, solemnly greeting each visitor with a right
hand across the chest, along with a short bow or a handshake.
A group of older men -- local dignitaries, most wearing the traditional white conical hat
of the Albanian mountains -- sat on a row of benches and desks from the school. Beside
them, on lower benches, was a row of children, each holding a framed photograph of one or
more of the dead, the kind of stiff, formal portraits people put in their living rooms.
As more and more people drifted in, wailing women clustered in the shade of a row of
trees, their cries splitting the air.
Like most villages here, Bela Crkva is a close-knit group of extended families. The
printed list of victims contained 21 people with the family name of Popaj and 24 with that
of Zhuniqi, along with 4 from the Fetoshi family and 7 from the Spahiu family.
Among the people gathered here today was Isuf Zhenigi, who first gave an account of the
massacre to The New York Times in April, describing how he had been saved by falling under
the bodies as men were machine-gunned into the river.
"This is the most terrible, black day I ever had," he said as he looked around
the mourners and the portraits of the dead people he knew so well. He lost his uncle and
23 other relatives in the massacre.
Asked if he had returned to the riverbank to see the scene of the killings, Zhenigi, who
had appeared composed, nodded. Then, suddenly, he began crying, leaned against a building,
then slumped to the ground. Other men from the village squatted down with him, patting his
shoulder, giving him a cigarette.
"All my best friends were killed," he said finally. "They killed 12
children." And the future? he was asked. "What can I do?" he said. "I
had two buses. They burned them. I had a home. They destroyed it."
Now, he said, he must figure out how to provide for his family: "I have two children.
They are sleeping in the yard."
At noon the procession of close relatives, carrying mourning wreaths that are a custom
here, began filing along the main dirt road of the village, and the schoolyard emptied out
as people joined them.
The procession wound past the village's burned-out houses -- nearly every one destroyed --
and the mosque, scorched, its dome full of holes, its minaret gone. Past the ruins, the
mourners mounted a steep hill, known locally as Paskiddle.
They were accompanied by a small honor guard of soldiers from the rebel Kosova Liberation
Army in a mixture of camouflage outfits, including six with Kalashnikov rifles with fixed
The group is no longer supposed to wear uniforms or carry guns, under the peacekeeping
agreement for Kosova. German NATO troops on the scene did not interfere, though, except --
briefly and unsuccessfully -- to try to keep out foreign journalists.
Under a burning sun, the procession reached the crest of the hill, and 8 trucks and 11
tractors groaned into the field with the bodies. The graves had already been dug, and a
long process began of unloading each body, the grave surrounded by mourners, while
thousands of other people sat silently around the hillside and men of the village pushed
dirt into the grave.
The graves were marked with simple wooden stakes bearing the name of the deceased and a
birth date. Each stake also bore the date 25-3-99.
Finally, the honor guard fired a volley of three bursts of automatic weapons fire in honor
of the dead, and the people of Bela Crkva began drifting down the hill.
Superintendent Bunn, later in the afternoon, set up his white investigation tent in the
village of Celina, a few miles across the rolling hills to the southeast.
Villagers there say they have 88 bodies.
U.S. troops, ethnic Albanians
celebrate July 4 in Kosova (AP)
GJILAN, Kosova (AP) -- Ethnic Albanians covered a wall with red, white and blue slogans
Sunday, celebrating an American holiday to show their gratitude to the U.S. peacekeeping
contingent in Kosova.
In some parts of southern Kosova, ethnic Albanians played volleyball and ate barbecue with
U.S. Marines and soldiers. But in the southern base town of Gjilan, Marines planned a
quiet picnic of hot dogs and hamburgers in their camps, saying mingling with Albanians
might alienate Serbs with whom they also have to work.
"All the people out there celebrating the Fourth of July will be Albanian," said
Staff Sgt. Lance Waring of Surf City, N.C., standing outside the sandbagged city hall in
At any rate, added Staff Sgt. Dwight Jones, it might be a bit early for a party. Much of
Kosova remains a dangerous place, with Albanian-Serb attacks continuing and land mines
threatening returning refugees.
"We basically have a mission, a job to do here," said Jones, of Brownsville,
Tenn. "You don't celebrate until everything is done."
Since arriving in Kosova last month, members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit have
killed one Serb in Gjilan and another in nearby Zegra after coming under fire, heightening
tension in a region already bitterly divided by ethnic conflict.
The U.S. forces are part of a NATO-led team sent to oversee the return of refugees and
back up a U.N.-led civilian administration for the Serbian province.
Many Kosova Albanians see the peacekeepers as their saviors after their community suffered
brutal repression at the hands of the Serbs. Serb forces had to retreat under a U.N.
agreement that saw the arrival of NATO peacekeepers.
"At last the Serbs are gone," Besnik Selimi said, pausing from painting a wall
along the main road leading into Gjilan. He and friends from the neighborhood were slowly
covering the wall with American flags, Marine shields and heartfelt, if misspelled,
"Klinton, you are king of the world!"
In Camp Bondsteel just outside Gjilan, Army soldiers sat down with former Sen. Bob Dole
for a barbecue of steaks, ribs and chicken in a tent decorated with stars-and-stripes
Dole heaped his plate and sat at a picnic table with several young soldiers. "I
believe independence is going to happen here," he said. "There's been conflict
... now there's hope."
Capt. Brian Linvill of Clemson, S.C., who as headquarters commandant is something akin to
Camp Bondsteel's mayor, acknowledged the pork ribs were unusual in a largely Muslim
province. But he said he wanted an all-American menu, and no Kosova Albanians were on hand
to be offended.
No fireworks -- which could easily be confused with gunfire or bomb explosions -- were
planned, he said.
"We don't want to make the locals nervous. We came here as peacekeepers, not as
Two shot dead by British troops
during 'Republic Day' celebration (CNN)
PRISHTINA, Kosova -- British KFOR troops killed two civilians and injured two early
Saturday as thousands of cheering Albanians clogged the streets of the Kosova capital to
celebrate the day they call "Republic Day," previously banned by the Serbs.
Witnesses said a young man on top of a car fired a Kalashnikov rifle into the air during
the raucous celebration, and the British returned fire. Boris Ruge, a spokesman for the
peacekeeping force, did not provide any other details.
'Happiest people in the world today'
Albanians in Prishtina celebrating the 9th Anniversary of the Independence
Day of Kosova, July 2nd.
Kosovar Albanians who spilled into the streets of Prishtina basked in the
celebratory mood. "We're all the happiest people in the world today," said
Resmije Cana, 55.
"So many things have happened in such a short time. We are safe, and we can start our
The day marks the ninth anniversary of a declaration by Albanian political leaders that
Kosova was "an equal and independent entity within the framework of Yugoslavia."
The action was one of the most important, if largely symbolic, strikes against the growing
nationalistic and oppressive actions of the Serb authorities, who had revoked Kosova's
autonomy and later forced some 80,000 ethnic Albanians out of their jobs.
During the celebration, ethnic Albanians carried red double- eagle Albanian flags, chanted
slogans of support for NATO and the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA), waved NATO-country flags
and sang a patriotic song with the refrain, "I will give my life for Kosova."
The exuberant chants changed to "Thaci! Thaci!" when KLA leader Hashim Thaci
waded into the crowd surrounded by bodyguards and flashing the victory symbol. At one
point, Thaci climbed onto a car and was handed an old rifle fitted with a bayonet, which
he waved in mock menace.
Thaci's KLA led armed resistance to Serb rule in Kosova.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's refusal to accept the Western-dictated peace plan
for Kosova prompted NATO to begin bombing Yugoslavia on March 24. Under a peace plan
enforced by thousands of international troops, Serb forces withdrew from the province this
'We are free now'
Drama student Yll Fitaku, who sparked Friday's celebrations by putting up leaflets urging
people to come downtown for a party, said such an outpouring would not have been possible
a few years ago, when Serb police kept a close eye on displays of Albanian nationalism.
"This is Independence Day! Today, I really feel it," said 23-year-old Enes
Emiri, shouting to be heard over the honking of horns, beating of drums and chants of
U-C-K -- the Albanian-language initials for the KLA.
"We are free now," said Flutura Muharreni, 19, as she joined the celebration,
which took over the main boulevard of Prishtina.
"We will drink, and we will be happy," she said as the crowd moved from the
Grand Hotel in the center of town toward the university.
Students there toppled a marble statue of Vuk Karadzic, a 19th-century Serb scholar.
They also burned a Yugoslav flag, toppled another Serb statue and tore down the sign from
a Serb-controlled bank that had once been run by Kosova Albanians.
But the demonstrators thought twice about trying to enter the rectorate of the university,
one of the provincial institutions taken over by Serbs a decade ago but now guarded by
troops of the KFOR peacekeeping mission.
Prior to the shooting, a few British paratroopers joined in a convoy of celebrants,
allowing boys and girls waving the Albanian flag to climb on a jeep and a tank. Other
paratroopers kept careful watch on the largely peaceful, if raucous crowd.
The crowd was generally young -- Thaci himself is about 30.
But 72-year-old Hasan Ukehajdaraj joined in, wiping tears with a handkerchief as he stood
on a curb.
"I'm crying from happiness," he said.