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Updated: 5 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates

Pristina,
Kosovo

9 July 1999

KFOR Press Statement

by Major Jan Joosten

  • Good morning ladies and gentlemen…

  • Today, I would like to start with the operational update.

  • At 1930 hours yesterday, MNB west were tasked to investigate with the ICTY, possible war crime sites in the area of Ljubenic. There are reports that these sites contain 350 bodies. Investigations are currently ongoing and we will release any details once we have them.

  • Yesterday whilst investigating a house fire, soldiers from MNB Central found the bodies of an elderly couple with stab wounds. Military Police are now looking into the cause of the deaths and the fire.

  • Last night there was a shooting incident in Pristina. One civilian casualty was shot in the thigh. The gunmen escaped into a building and 1 Parachute Regiment were quickly on the scene.

  • Early this morning following reports of shooting in Batuse, 2 Serbs were met at a vehicle check point. Both had serious injuries and were treated by military medical staff. On investigation the firing and contact point were found, a house search has taken place and investigations continue. Unfortunately, both victims later died from their wounds, in hospital. Obviously investigations are at an early stage, however initial enquiries point to an ambush by 4 to 6 gunmen.

  • Last night on the outskirts of Skopje on the Tetevo road, their were two road traffic accidents involving KFOR troops.

  • Eight UK soldiers were involved, all suffering some injuries. The commander of the party, although not very seriously injured, was evacuated to the Skopje Military Hospital. Today the commander and 3 soldiers with minor injuries will be flown to 22 Field Ambulance in Kosovo.

  • A German Military Police patrol on the way to the scene was also involved in a RTA. One of the two MPs received minor injuries.

  • In MNB East, yesterday, a patrol detained 6 personnel suspected of kidnapping and assault, after investigating suspicious activity at a house in Urosevac. The quick reactions of this patrol undoubtedly stopped further suffering for the nine victims that were also in the building.

  • As you are aware the situation is still tense in Kosovo. The soldiers on the street are working extremely hard in our efforts to provide a secure and stable environment. These soldiers will continue to patrol their areas 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • KFOR contingents also continue to make a significant contribution in their non Military efforts. Through MNB South yesterday, the German Government provided funds to pay the wages of hospital workers, fire fighters, and others. This is a major factor in the maintenance of public services in their area.

  • In MNB West, 5 officers of the Italian Railway Regiment will arrive today. They will assist in controlling the railway line and structure between Pec and Pristina - another major contribution to the return to normality in Kosovo.

  • The Kosovo a power station, after efforts by soldiers from MNB Central and staff from all ethnic backgrounds, is now ready to run. Once the power lines are completely repaired, the station can start providing electricity to Kosovo.

  • Now to Kevin…

    Question from Reuters: Could you give us more details on this mass grave. Who reported that they found a mass grave? Is this the largest such discovery so far?

    Answer from Maj Joosten: As I said as soon as we have more details of this available I will be most happy to share this with you, but at this stage that is all the information that we have. We are not going to release any information on who gave us this report.

    Question from Kosova Press: Can you give us more information on the deployment of the Russian Troops in areas where there were protests yesterday, a large number of people in the areas where they will be deployed, protesting their arrival? Can you tell us about the status of that, how many are coming into these areas, when will they be deploying and the relationships between KFOR and locals concerning this issue?

    Answer from Maj Joosten: Well if you have a day I will be most happy to discuss that. Let me state again that there is a Helsinki Agreement and troops will be deployed according to that Helsinki Agreement and we have explained several times where the Russian Units will go. Currently there are a number of reconnaissance teams to fine tune the exact borders. Going back to the protests which took place yesterday in Urosavac. What I want to say is that we welcome the Russian participation in KFOR and KFOR soldiers have the duty and responsibility to carry out their tasks in an even handed way towards all ethnic groups. There is no doubt that the professional and well trained Russian soldiers act accordingly.

    Question from Voice of America: This is for Mr Kennedy. Can you tell us anything about the situation of the local media here and specifically Radio Pristina? Has any progress been made, when can we expect them to go on the air?

    Answer from Mr Kennedy: As you know we have been meeting with people who are representing workers from Radio Pristina who want to return to work. These are people who have been expelled from their jobs in the early 90's. We have not yet arrived at a solution to the return to work, basically we have proposed to them that since the larger management issue could not be resolved to their satisfaction, at this point, that we put together skeleton teams who could start doing a limited amount of programming so that Radio Pristina could get back on the air. Initially they reacted positively to that, but then the following day they decided that they couldn't go along with that.

    So we are continuing to talk to them as well as to representatives of the former Serbian staff who are still in Pristina, trying to work out some details of a return to work. In the mean time we are also putting together a team with their inputs to do a survey and an inventory of the equipment that is Radio Pristina's, so there is an inventory of what is available, what condition it is in, what needs rehabilitation. We are meeting regularly with them. Obviously we are extremely concerned about this media vacuum that we have, but it has been the mission of UNMIK that there has got to be a joint approach to these issues, that there has to be on the commissions, on the consultative groups that are established to work through these issues, that there has to be representative participation, from all communities in the full spectrum of political opinion in Kosovo.

    We haven't arrived at a point where the workers from Radio Pristina are willing to approach it in that way. We would like very much to get set up a Joint Civil Commission on Media and Communications, we haven't yet got agreement from them on the composition of that group and until we have such a Joint Media Commission, it will be very hard to address the bug picture issues. For that reason we tried to aim at an immediate practical solution, but we are still working on it and we hope that today or tomorrow we will have a technical committee so that we can at least start doing an inventory of what needs to be done.

    Question: How many civilians has KFOR arrested? How about their future, what kind of liaise with both the UN Police and KFOR?

    Answer from Maj Joosten: In answer to your first question. We have detained or arrested approximately well over 250 people. It is number that goes up and down, people are being released and people are being held.

    Answer from Mr Kennedy: In terms of the liaison between the UN International Police and KFOR, already, as you probably know, there are civilian police who have been detached to each of the KFOR contingents, to advise them on civilian policing activities. There will be ultimately set up a sort of situation centre at the UN HQ here, to look at rapid response and of course deal with civilian policing issues as well as other security issues. This is an important part of the cooperation between UNMIK and KFOR. As we have said before KFOR will retain responsibility for the maintenance of public order and security and for civil law and order until such time we have a sufficient number of UN International Police in place and conditions allow civilian policing to take over. Obviously the bigger picture is that the training and the bringing into action of a new Kosovo Police Service and that also is on the planning board.

    Question: We understand that KFOR has taken away for autopsy one of the bodies from the supposed KLA fighters that were killed on Kosovo Day. Can you confirm that and why was the body taken away and what have you found out about it?

    Answer from Maj Joosten: What I understood from the people who do the investigation that we still have the body and a pathologist came in yesterday and is going to an exam of the body.

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