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Kosovo's PM Fires Interior Minister, Secret Police Chief


Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj: "The entire operation...was conducted without my knowledge and without my permission,”
Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj: "The entire operation...was conducted without my knowledge and without my permission,”

Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has dismissed the interior minister and the secret-service chief after the arrest and deportation to Turkey of six Turkish nationals a day earlier.

In an official statement, Haradinaj said the director of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, Driton Gashi, and Interior Minister Flamur Sefaj were being relieved of their duties effective immediately.

Haradinaj said he was not informed about the operation to deport the six, who were arrested in Kosovo on March 29 over ties to schools linked to the Fethullah Gulen movement that Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup.

"The entire operation -- revoking their residence permits, detention, emergency deportation, and the secret extradition to Turkey of the six Turkish citizens from Kosovo territory -- was conducted without my knowledge and without my permission," Haradinaj said in the statement.

Adding to the government’s embarrassment, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech during a meeting of his Justice and Development Party in Ankara on March 30 that the Turkish intelligence agency MIT had brought the six Turks back "in coordination with Kosovo intelligence."

Opposition lawmakers in parliament on March 30 called for snap elections, arguing the incident highlighted the fact that the prime minister does not have control over all government institutions.

Later, after a meeting of top government and party officials, the speaker of parliament from the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, Kadri Veseli, admitted "mistakes" had been made in arresting and deporting the six Turkish citizens.

"I want to assure all citizens of Kosovo, in the name of the ruling parties, that something like this will never happen again in Kosovo. It was a mistake; it was harmful for Kosovo's citizens and for the Republic of Kosovo," Veseli said.

Commentators says Kosovo has faced pressure from Turkey in past weeks to take action against schools allegedly linked to the Gulen movement.

Turkey said the six arrested on March 29 were allegedly responsible for recruiting into Gulen’s network and helping those in Turkey leave the country amid a security crackdown in which tens of thousands of people have either been fired or imprisoned for alleged ties to Gulen.

Turkey is a major supporter of impoverished Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and Turkish firms run the tiny Balkan country's sole airport and electricity network, and are building two highways worth around $2 billion.

Ankara accuses Gulen, a Muslim cleric based in the United States, of masterminding the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, and has declared his movement a terrorist operation. Gulen denies any link with the abortive putsch.

With reporting from Reuters

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