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Kosovo Report: August 3, 1999


3 August 1999, Number 13, Volume 1

UNIVERSITY, POST, TELECOM REOPENS. University professors and employees of Kosovo's post and telecommunications offices returned to their workplaces on 2 August, after having been expelled nine years ago. Kouchner said that this return marks an important day in the reconstruction of Kosovo. He also said that the international community will support the upgrading of the outdated telephone network in Kosovo. Mysli Bajraktari, chairman of the Senate of Prishtina University, on the occasion of the reopening said that the professors will be at the center of the reconstruction of Kosovo with their dedication.

KOUCHNER SAYS 11,000 BODIES IN KOSOVO MASS GRAVES UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner told Reuters in Prishtina on 2 August that mass graves in Kosovo contain the bodies of an estimated 11,000 ethnic Albanians. Kouchner added that the main problem in Kosovo at present is the lack of international police forces and the desire of ethnic Albanians to take revenge. He added that a large number of Serbs have been killed and many have left Kosovo. In many cases, Albanians have burned down or taken over their houses. He estimated that about half of all Kosovo Serbs have left the province. Kouchner said that many abuses by Albanians have been committed either individually or in the name of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), but without the approval of the UCK's political leader Hashim Thaci. Kouchner added that he is not sure whether Albanian political parties are responsible for the crimes, which are difficult to control. Kouchner said he thinks that Thaci believes in democracy and will cooperate with the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Tensions remain high in Kosovo due to on-going incidents of violence. A UN spokeswoman said on 2 August that the UN is waiting for the arrival of more international police forces. Currently there are just over 350 UNMIK police in Kosovo, of which 37 work in Prishtina. Another 250 policemen are expected to arrive on 3 August. The spokeswoman added that UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner is continuing talks with political and military representatives of the UCK on the process of demilitarization. She also announced that the transitional council for Kosovo has resumed its work and that Kouchner held talks with Democratic League of Kosovo leader Ibrahim Rugova.

ALBANIANS FLEE SERBIA PROPER. UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said that several thousand Albanians from Serbia proper have fled to Kosovo since June. Among them are also about 4,500 people from the ethnic Albanian majority towns of Medvedja, Presevo, and Bujanovac. The Albanians said that Serbian military and paramilitary forces forced them to leave. Redmond added that the expulsions coincide with an increase in troop concentrations in these areas bordering Kosovo.

Redmond said: "Internally displaced persons interviewed both in Gjilan and Kamenica told the UNHCR that the Yugoslav Army and paramilitary groups have started an intimidation campaign." He added that this program includes beatings, forced expulsions, threats, and destruction of buildings and other property. Redmond added that about 3,000 of the displaced persons have been accommodated in Gjilan, about 1,000 in Kamenica, and 500 in nearby villages.

Redmond also talked about the UNHCR's activities in that area: "In Presevo, officials confirmed that a number of residents from outlying villages had left during and after the bombing," but he added that the reports are contradictory. "Some officials on the Serbian side denied that these types of things were happening. Others on the Kosovar side say that there are still problems, particularly in some of the predominantly Albanian towns." Redmond stressed that the UNHCR can not confirm what is happening, but that the UNHCR knows that Albanians from that area keep arriving in Kosovo and Macedonia.

SERBS LEAVE PRIZREN, GJILAN. Some 83 Serbs, who had sought refuge in the Orthodox church of Prizren, left Kosovo on 2 August under the protection of German troops, according to a Reuters report. An Orthodox cleric in Prizren said that the church can not guarantee the people's security and that they concluded it would be best to leave Kosovo. Elsewhere, KFOR spokesman Major Roland Lavoie said that KFOR agreed to accompany over 400 Serbs out of Kosovo from a village ten kilometers outside of Gjilan. He added that this is an unfortunate thing to have to do, but KFOR respects the decision of the Serbs to leave Kosovo. Thus KFOR agreed to offer protection to the Serbs during their departure.

THACI 'GOVERNMENT' DENOUNCES ETHNIC VIOLENCE. In a political declaration on 2 August, the provisional government of Kosovo, which is led by UCK leader Hashim Thaci, harshly denounced the killing of civilians -- regardless of their ethnic origin. The declaration called on ethnic Albanians to put their hatred aside and begin with the reconstruction of Kosovo. The statement also said that a large number of Serbian paramilitaries still remain in Kosovo, often camouflaged as Serbian villagers and that the Serbian Secret Service is still active in Kosovo. He also said that Serbian forces have not withdrawn beyond the five-kilometer security zone around Kosovo.

SERBIAN COURT INVESTIGATES SOLDIER FOR WAR CRIMES. Reuters reported that a court in Nis on 2 August ordered an investigation into a Bosnian Serb soldier, who fought on the side of Yugoslav forces in Kosovo, for allegedly committing war crimes. The man identified as Igor Radocaj from Prijedor has been accused of killing two Albanians, according to judge Miloje Mitic. It is the first time that Serbian authorities have launched an investigation into war crimes in Kosovo.

US SOLDIER DIES IN ACCIDENT. A U.S. soldier was electrocuted near Gjilan, when the antenna of his military vehicle struck a power line. It was the fourth death of a U.S. soldier since 12 June, when international forces entered Kosovo.

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