Skip to comments.After Milosevic, Crime, terror flourish in 'liberated' Kosovo
Posted on 01/02/2004 11:47:41 AM PST by Dan2001
Four years after it was "liberated" by a NATO bombing campaign, Kosovo has deteriorated into a hotbed of organized crime, anti-Serb violence and al-Qaeda sympathizers, say security officials and Balkan experts.
Though nominally still under UN control, the southern province of Serbia is today dominated by a triumvirate of Albanian paramilitaries, mafiosi and terrorists. They control a host of smuggling operations and are implementing what many observers call their own brutal ethnic cleansing of minority groups, such as Serbs, Roma and Jews.
In recent weeks, UN officials ordered the construction of a fortified concrete barrier around the UN compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital Pristina. This is to protect against terrorist strikes by Muslim extremists who have set up bases of operation in what has become a largely outlaw province.
Minority Serbs, who were supposed to have been guaranteed protection by the international community after the 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended in the spring of 1999, have abandoned the province en masse. The last straw for many was the recent round of attacks by ethnic Albanian paramilitaries bent on gaining independence through violence.
Attacks on Serbs in Kosovo, a province of two million people, have risen sharply.
According to statistics collected by the UN criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague, 1,192 Serbs have been killed, 1,303 kidnapped and 1,305 wounded in Kosovo this year.
In June, 1999, just after the NATO bombing, 547 Serbs were killed and 932 were kidnapped.
Last summer, in one of the more grisly massacres, two Serb youths were killed and four others wounded by ethnic Albanian militants while swimming in the Bistrica River, near Pec.
The violence continues despite an 18,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force and an international police force of more than 4,000.
Serbs, who now make up 5% of the population of Kosovo, down from 10% before the NATO campaign, are the main targets of the paramilitary groups.
The bombing was partly launched by NATO countries to end the ethnic cleansing of Albanians by Serb security forces in the region. In its immediate aftermath, many Serbs left Kosovo to settle in other parts of Yugoslavia, now known as Serbia and Montenegro.
Last week, Harri Holkeri, the province's UN leader, suspended two generals and 10 other officers, all members of an ethnic Albanian offshoot of the Kosovo Liberation Army, an insurgent group that emerged in the late 1980s to fight Serb security forces.
Mr. Holkeri made his decision -- the strongest UN response to violence in the province so far -- after a UN inquiry into the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC). Although the civilian defence organization is supposed to help local residents, over the past four years, its mostly ethnic Albanian military officials have been involved in violent confrontations with Serbs.
The inquiry found last April's bomb attack on a Kosovo railway was the work of the KPC.
"The whole process of rebuilding Kosovo-Metohija as a democratic, multi-ethnic society failed due to both the inability of the UN mission and [NATO] forces to protect Serbs and other non-Albanians from large-scale ethnic cleansing, this time primarily against Serbs," said Dusan Batakovic, a Serb diplomat and leading expert on Kosovo.
Dr. Batakovic and other Balkan experts, who attended a conference in Toronto last month to discuss Kosovo's future, say the situation is deteriorating rapidly.
"NATO forces made a real mess of Kosovo," said James Bissett, a former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia. "The bombing of Yugoslavia was a dreadful failure on humanitarian grounds. It failed to stop ethnic cleansing, which has continued after the so-called peace treaty."
In addition, "Balkan Taliban" -- Muslim ethnic Albanian paramilitary groups -- have vandalized Serb cemeteries and destroyed many of the region's Orthodox Christian monasteries and churches.
"This is a strategy of cutting Kosovo Serbs off from their historical and religious traditions," said Dr. Batakovic in his report to the North American Society of Serbian Studies conference.
Moreover, Kosovo has turned into one of Europe's biggest hubs for drug trafficking and terrorism.
Al-Qaeda has set up bases in the province, which has become an important centre for heroin, cigarette, gasoline and people smuggling.
The Albanian mafia and paramilitary groups, which security officials say are closely tied to al-Qaeda militants in the region, also oversee smuggling. More than 80% of Western Europe's heroin comes through Kosovo, where several drug laboratories have been set up, Interpol officials say.
During the wars (1991-99) that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia, drugs and other commodities were smuggled through Bulgaria and Turkey to Western Europe.
Now, more than 5,000 tonnes of heroin pass directly through Kosovo every month. In a recent article in Serbia's Vreme magazine, Kosovo was referred to as the "republic of heroin."
"The Albanians have become the alpha and omega of the drugs trade in southeast Europe," said Marko Nicovic, chairman of the International Police Association for the Fight Against Drugs.
"There are two reasons for this. The first is the fact that Kosovo is now under the control of the Albanian mafia lobby and the criminal police do not operate there. This is literally a paradise for all kinds of crime, especially narcotics."
The Albanian mafia also control trafficking in cigarettes, weapons, gasoline and women. Dozens of young women from impoverished towns and villages in the region are forced into prostitution rings centred in Kosovo, security officials say. Many of the women are taken by mobsters to work in Western European countries.
There is little consensus on the way ahead.
Many Serbs and moderate ethnic Albanian politicians would like a decision on Kosovo's legal status -- should it remain a province of Serbia or become independent?
Many ethnic Albanians are calling for independence, but their more extremist elements would like to fold the province into a Greater Albania that would see ethnic Albanians take over the mostly Albanian regions of neighbouring Macedonia as well.
The Serb government in Belgrade wants Kosovo to continue as part of Serbia.
Although it is four years since the NATO bombing, talks on Kosovo's future began only recently. Serb and ethnic Albanian leaders met in Vienna in October to discuss transportation and the return of Serb refugees to Kosovo.
"At this point, the chances for Kosovo remaining in Serbia are pretty slim," Mr. Bissett said. "There is a powerful Albanian lobby in the United States that is determined to make Kosovo independent."
Moreover, many Serb leaders know that to attract the much-needed aid and investment, they will need to give way on Kosovo, experts say.
In the meantime, the situation is expected to get worse, with renewed threats of violence against both the United Nations and Serbs in the province.
"It's a terrible situation," said Mr. Bissett. "If the United Nations and other organizations can't handle Kosovo, you wonder how they are going to do with something like Iraq."
A great deal of suffering caused by CLintoon's self-felt need to engage in some grandiose foreign adventure.
At least it was never in our interest. Clintoon must have figured that with no American interest to harm, the ill results of the bombing of Serbia would have little or no political blow-back.
Seems Clintoon didn't count on Al-Queda benefiting from his gross incompetence.
However, given your recent posts on Milosevic's trial, it doesn't appear that facts are you main area of interest, does it.
The difference is, we weren't inundated with Nazi propaganda which ignored German crimes while detailing the volksdeutch's plight.
Run some facts by us, with sources.
Then find a link to the ICTY source of this information.
Shouldn't be too hard, right?
Take the 328 or so listed here, add to the UNMIK's tally of murders since it started keeping records (the two sources overlap, mind you), and if you assume all the deaths on the UNMIK list are Serbs, you still get 328 + 454 (1999) + 246 (2000) + 136 (2001) + 68 (2002) + 37 (first half 2003 only) = 1201.
Happily, UNMIK keeps track of the ethnicities of the victims, so the corrected tally goes 328 + 155 + 55 + 30 + 6 + 37 (% Serb unk.) = 611.
In short, you continue to perpetuate the Milosevic era modus operandi of spreading misinformation and outright lies rather than facing up to the facts and the consequences of Serbian nationalism.
As to my take on the trial vs. yours, you better get your "It was a kangaroo court and the verdict was decided beforehand" posts ready, 'cause by ignoring the damning testimony that has been heard against Milosevic in your oh so objective analysis, that's going to be your only realistic course of action come Slobo's judgement day.
And they both represent a big-time battery as well.....
It's conservative to the extent that they admit that clinton made mistakes and that if Bush is a warmonger then clinton was a warmonger too. The usual media position has been that all clinton's wars were good and all Bush's wars are bad. This and the Guardian article point out that that's not logical. But even to admit that is unusual for a liberal rag. No, it doesn't go all the way. But at least it goes part way.
How's about 5,000 tons is more than worldwide annual production? Global Illicit Drug Trends (page 16)
How's about I could use members of Saddam's inner circle and leftists sympathetic to his cause and do the same thing for Iraq that this author has done for Serbia?
Or better yet, how's about I don't, cause I'm not some idiot dupe for a mass murdering despot, nor an apologist for his failed policies?
It's interesting that you view 1,201 over 4 years as somehow being worse than 5,000+ in three months, which is what Slobo's forces managed to rack up.
Kosovo is a failure alright - a failure for you, Slobo, and all the other nutjobs trying to pass it off as being worse off now than under Slobo.
Want a tissue?