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EULEX Staff Member Shot Dead In North Kosovo

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

PRISTINA -- The European Union's rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, says a Lithuanian member of its staff was shot dead on September 19 in the mainly Serb north.

EULEX said in a statement that two vehicles carrying six of its personnel came under fire while on a routine mission in the Zvecan area near Mitrovica.

The statement said the incident resulted in the death of one EULEX staffer. Police officials in Kosovo confirmed to RFE/RL that the victim was a customs officer from Lithuania.

EULEX mission head Bernd Borchardt described him as a "young man who leaves behind a wife and family."

It marks the first fatality suffered by the mission since it was deployed in 2008.

EULEX said a murder investigation has been opened and the area sealed off.

The EULEX statement condemned the attack, which it called an "act of cowardly violence against its staff members."

Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga blamed the attack on "forces that want to destabilize Kosovo."

Kosovo, whose population is mainly ethnic Albanian, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but minority Serbs in the north reject the secession.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, called for those responsible for the murder to be apprehended swiftly.

"The perpetrators must be brought to justice," she said. "And what is extremely important is that the European Union is determined to continue its engagement and commitment in Kosovo and will press on with its work in the context of the EU-facilitated dialogue. The high representative also appeals to all parties to redouble their efforts to implement the agreements that were reached, to normalize relations, and to improve the lives of the people on the ground in northern Kosovo."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the attack but said it would not affect the alliance's KFOR mission, which has been in Kosovo since 1999.

In Belgrade, Deputy Premier Aleksandar Vucic said the attack on EULEX was an attack on Serbia. He called it an "attempt to spoil everything that Serbia has achieved recently." Vucic vowed a "harsh response" and promised assistance in investigating the killing.

The murder also drew condemnation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, whose country currently holds the rotating OSCE Presidency, said in a statement he condemned the killing "in the strongest possible terms."

The OSCE statement also called for calm and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.