Accessibility links

Breaking News

Kosovo: Police In 'Massive' Manhunt To Find Killers

Prague, 14 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Hundreds of UN police are conducting an intensive search in northwestern Kosovo for gunmen who yesterday shot dead two Serbian teenagers and wounded four others.

Andrea Angeli, a spokesman for the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said around 300 officers are involved in what he called a "massive" effort to find the killers. Officers have cordoned off the scene of the attack, at a river near Zahac, some 60 kilometers west of the provincial capital, Pristina.

"Initially, we have some 300 officers who are conducting an intensive search all around the area," Angeli said. "At the moment, we don't have any suspects, and no arrests have been made."

The youths, from the Serbian enclave of Gorazdevac, were swimming in a river when one or more gunmen opened fire from nearby bushes.

The motive is not clear. Tensions still run high between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian and Serbian communities four years after NATO air strikes led to the establishment of an international protectorate in the province.

The shootings occurred shortly after the arrival yesterday of the new head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Harri Holkeri. It was Holkeri's first visit to Kosovo after taking over from Michael Steiner as the province's chief international administrator.

Angeli said the mood at UNMIK is "sad" and that Holkeri is devastated by the shootings. "Certainly, it was very emotional. It's a very sad event," he said. "The new chief of the [UN] mission [in Kosovo], Mr. [Harri] Holkeri...declared here: 'I'm devastated about this terrible tragedy. It's a tragedy for Kosovo that four years after the conflict ended such incidents continue to take a terrible toll on the lives of innocent citizens and on Kosovo's image in the international community.'"

Serbian political leaders also condemned the killings. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is in charge of Belgrade's policies on Kosovo, called for a special meeting of the UN Security Council.

"[What happened] in Gorazdevac is the most brutal form of fascism. I don't know how else to name the act when someone opens fire on children who are bathing. Believe me, condemnations, protests, and notes are not enough. Whatever we do, nothing has changed, and they are killing and killing people, ethnic cleansing is going on. My proposal will be to the government [of Serbia] and the Council of Ministers [of Serbia and Montenegro] to demand a session of the UN Security Council in the presence of the secretary-general [Kofi Annan]," Covic said.

The killings come amid escalating violence in the province. Earlier this month, a UN police officer was shot dead in northern Kosovo after his car came under attack by unknown assailants.

Ethnic Albanians in the government blamed Serbian extremists for the murder. But Covic said the shooting was the work of "Albanian extremist terrorist gangs." The UN has offered a reward of 50,000 euros for information leading to the arrest of the killer or killers.

Earlier this summer (5 June), an elderly Serbian man, his wife, and son were brutally slain in their home in Obiliq, outside of Pristina. In that attack -- still unsolved -- the three were beaten to death and their house set on fire. A motive was never established. The killings coincided with the arrival in Kosovo at the time of Javier Solana, the European Union's security and foreign-policy chief.

(RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Language Service contributed to this report.)

  • 16x9 Image

    Mark Baker

    Mark Baker is a freelance journalist and travel writer based in Prague. He has written guidebooks and articles for Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and Fodor’s, and his articles have also appeared in National Geographic Traveler and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.