22 December 2006

Weapons Seized In Kosovo, Goverment Official Involved

Kosovo officials arrested after huge weapons haul
REUTERS, Thu Dec 21, 2006 6:35 AM ETBy Fatos Bytyci
PRISTINA, Serbia (Reuters) - Two officials of Kosovo's governing coalition have been arrested after police found a minibus packed with heavy weapons and ammunition.
A police source said the haul included a 12.7 mm anti-aircraft gun and more than 100 rocket-propelled grenades.
Local media reports said the find, made late on Wednesday in the Drenica region of central Kosovo, was the largest in Kosovo since the 1998-99 war and the deployment of NATO peacekeepers.
Three men were arrested, including a senior adviser to the Kosovo labor minister and a member of the governing Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), which emerged from the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army.
The find sharpened fears of unrest in the U.N.-run province, where major powers have delayed a decision on the demand of 2 million ethnic Albanians for independence from Serbia.
The Kosovo government issued a statement expressing regret for what it said was an isolated case. The AAK, a junior member of the governing coalition, said it was "surprised" that two of its members were involved.
The breakaway province, run by the United Nations since 1999 and patrolled by 17,000 NATO-led peacekeepers, is braced for possible violence after the major Western powers and Russia let slip a year-end deadline to decide its fate until Serbia holds a general election on January 21.
An influential Brussels-based think-tank on Wednesday warned against further delay.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) said the temptation to avoid a tough decision on independence must be avoided, or there could be a "major new crisis".
Some Kosovo Albanian leaders have warned of unrest, which would almost certainly target the remaining 100,000 Serbs. Groups of armed men have appeared over the past year, and rioters last month lobbed stones and bottles at the U.N. headquarters in the capital, Pristina.
NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days in 1999 to force out Serb forces accused of causing a bloodbath in a two-year conflict with separatist guerrillas. Ten thousand Albanian civilians died and almost a million were expelled.
Diplomats say the United States and its major European allies favor a form of independence supervised by the European Union. But Russian support for Serbia, which opposes independence, is hardening and could scupper efforts to solve the problem in the U.N. Security Council.
According to Kosovo's leading daily in Albanian language KOHA DITORE Ministry of Labor which is lead by one of Ramush Haradinaj's closest aides was involved in riots of November 28 this year when the UNMIK and Kosovo Govenrment building were attacked. Vehicles of the Ministry of Labor assisted in bringing stones to the rioters (Comment by KIM Info)
NATO peacekeepers, police seize weapons cache in Kosovo
Associated Press: Thursday, December 21, 2006 6:21 AM
PRISTINA, Serbia-NATO peacekeepers and police seized a large weapons cache during a raid in Kosovo and arrested three suspects, a police official said Thursday.
Police raided locations in the village of Stutica, in central Kosovo, after receiving information on weapons smuggling late Tuesday, said police spokesman Veton Elshani. The weapons, which were being examined by NATO-led peacekeepers, included rockets and ammunition. Police did not have further details on the size of the cache.
Two suspects were arrested at the scene and police also arrested a suspect in eastern Kosovo, Elshani said.
Local media identified one of the suspects as a member of the Alliance for Future of Kosovo, part of the province's ruling coalition government, and the other as an adviser to the Ministry of Social Welfare.
The alleged involvement of a government official in the weapons seizure drew condemnation by Kosovo's government, which distanced itself from the official and commended law enforcement agencies for the seizure of illegal weapons.
Kosovo has been administered by United Nations mission since mid-1999, when a NATO air war halted a crackdown by Serb forces on separatist ethnic Albanian rebels. The province is patrolled by some 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers, who are in charge of the overall security in Kosovo.
Tensions in the province have been increasing as U.N.-mediated negotiations are under way to resolve the province's future status. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants full independence, but Belgrade wants to retain some control over what it considers a crucial part of Serbia.
The U.N. envoy facilitating months of so far inconclusive talks between the bitterly divided sides is due to make a final recommendation early next year on the province's future.
Weapons seized, officials arrested in Kosovo
21 December 2006 14:19 Source: Beta
PRISTINA -- Kosovo police (KPS) and KFOR confiscated a large amount of weapons in Glogovac last night.
KPS spokesman said that a significant amount of arms and ammunition was found in a van in the village of Stutica, Glogovac municipality, and confirmed that three people were arrested.
However, he did not disclose the identities of those placed in police custody. The media for its part speculates that a Kosovo government official is among those arrested last night.
"We are still uncertain about the amount of weapons in question, since the search of the location continues. KFOR is involved in the investigation, since the weapons cache contained a certain amount of explosives, which falls under their jurisdiction", the police spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the Pristina media report that two members of Kosovo's ruling coalition are among those arrested, one of whom is allegedly a government official.
Radio Kosovo names the pair as Skenderbej Habibi and Naim Bazaj, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo members.
The government in Pristina issued a statement in effect confirming the speculation, expressing "strong condemnation of the involvement of one of its officials in illegal activities.
"The prime minister and the government condemn any illegal action regardless of who perpetrates it in the strongest terms and remains convinced that such people have no place in Kosovo's government", the statement says.
It goes on to congratulate the security forces on carrying out a successful operation of discovering and confiscating the illegal weapons.
KIM Info-service ARCHIVE
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