21 March 2007

Smuggling of drugs and weapons through Decani Monastery protected zone

Criminal activities under the guise of tourism
KIM Info Service, Decani, December 21, 2006

Despite the latest protests against illegal construction near Visoki Decani Monastery, the situation around this Serbian Orthodox holy shrine has not changed in the least. Moreover, during a meeting yesterday, Decani municipality openly announced construction of a highway to Plav passing right next to the monastery, which is completely against UNMIK restrictions applying to the protected zone around the monastery. As indicated in a previous KIM Info Service newsletter, the news was published in the Pristina Albanian language daily "Koha Ditore".

"This represents flagrant institutional terror implemented by local municipal officials belonging to the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo with the support of government circles in Pristina. From all that has transpired it is crystal clear that the promises of the Kosovo government with respect to their purported readiness to ensure the protection of Serbian Orthodox holy shrines are not sincere," said Protosingel Sava Janjic, commenting on the most recent decisions of Decani municipality. "We are deeply concerned by the increase in extremist activity on the territory of Decani and Pec," said Fr. Sava, adding that since 1999 Decani municipality has failed to enable the return of Serbs because this is opposed by local extremists headed by an ultra-radical organization of Kosovo Liberation Army veterans. "The stories about development of tourism are nothing more than fairy tales because everyone knows there is no rule of law in this area and that the surrounding mountains are swarming with armed smugglers, not hikers and mountain climbers," concluded Fr. Sava.

According to international police sources the Decani-Plav route has become one of the main channels for smuggling of weapons, drugs and white slaves. The intent of extremist circles is to build a better, wider road so that when the time right the violence can be expanded to nearby Montenegro. The triangle between Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo has already become a sort of El Dorado for organized crime and mafia, as Montenegrin police reports confirm (see article from the Podgorica daily "Dan" below). Until April this year all vehicles passing by Decani Monastery were searched by KFOR troops; however, after demonstrations and political pressure coordinated by KLA veterans under the leadership of Abdyl Mushkolaj and activists of Albin Kurti's "Self-Determination" an agreement of sorts was reached for vehicles not to be searched during the day. This represents a further security threat in proximity to the monastery.

Recently a significant weapons cache was found and confiscated near Pec which was intended for the use of Albanian paramilitary gangs in Montenegro which have already attempted to organize terrorist activities in this republic. The smuggling channels and accumulation of illegal weapons by extremists near Pec and Decani are well know to both international police and military experts who are following extremist activities on the territory of Metohija.