12 July 2007

Kosovo 'guerilla group' claims attack on UN vehicles

Agence France Presse, 20 fĂ©vrier 2007  17:06

PRISTINA, Serbia, Feb 20, 2007 (AFP)

== ATTENTION -with new protest, US statement ///

A group named after the ethnic Albanian guerilla force that fought Serb troops in Kosovo's 1998-1999 war claimed responsibility Tuesday for a bomb attack on United Nations vehicles.

In an email message sent to Kosovo media, the group calling itself the "Kosovo Liberation Army" said Monday's explosions "were aimed at damaging UNMIK vehicles but not at the loss of life."

The original Kosovo Liberation Army was disbanded in 1999 after the United Nations mission (UNMIK) entered the disputed Serbian province at the end of its conflict.

They arrived in the wake of a NATO bombing campaign to end a crackdown by Serb forces loyal to former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic on the KLA and its civilian supporters.

Police say they are still investigating the explosion, which occurred close to the centre of the provincial capital Pristina on Monday evening, damaging three white United Nations-marked vehicles and another car.

The leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority condemned the attack as a threat to the international community's efforts to settle the future status of the province this year.

"Such criminal acts are absolutely unacceptable ... and completely harmful for the process to determine the status of Kosovo," said President Fatmir Sejdiu in a statement.

Prime Minister Agim Ceku, a former KLA commander, denounced the attack, saying such actions could only serve to damage Kosovo's future.

The attack was also condemned the US diplomatic office in Kosovo, whose chief Tina Kaidanow issued a similar statement.

"It should be clear to everyone by now that violence of any sort, whether aimed at international organisations, ethnic communities or political groups, will endanger the status process," she said in a statement.

In its email message, the group said Monday's attack was carried out in "revenge" for the deaths of the two protestors on February 10.

This was a reference to the death of two people from injuries sustained in clashes between police and protestors from "Self-determination," a youth and radical movement that wants the withdrawal of UNMIK and immediate independence.

Self-determination, whose leader Albin Kurti remains in detention after being arrested, on Tuesday announced it would stage another protest in Pristina on March 3 against the UN-backed status talks.

"It will be peaceful, aimed not only at the negotiations with Serbia but also at the crime which was committed by the police responsible for the death of the two demonstrators," one of its leaders, Glauk Konjufca, told reporters.

Though still a Serbian province, Kosovo has been run by the UN since mid-1999, after a NATO bombing campaign helped end a crackdown by Belgrade-controlled forces against ethnic Albanians.

Tensions have mounted in Kosovo since the start of February, when the special UN envoy to the province, Martti Ahtisaari, presented a plan that avoids the word independence but offers Kosovo Albanians self-rule.

Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland, will start a final round of talks on his blueprint in Vienna on Wednesday between Kosovo Albanian leaders and Serbian officials.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership welcomed the plan, but Belgrade has said it will reject parts that it says impinge on Serbia's sovereignty over the province.

Many Serbs consider Kosovo the cradle of the country's history, culture and religion.