Updated: 5 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates


14 July 1999

KFOR Press Statement

by Maj. Jan Joosten

  • Good morning ladies and gentlemen

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

  • Yesterday at noon, in MNB Central, one civilian died, one was very seriously injured and two suffered blast and shock injuries after detonating a mine. The incident occurred on a track in a marked mine area. The current assessment we have is that the blast was the result of 2 anti - tank mines, one on top of the other. This distressing event is another example of the dangers that are prevalent around Kosovo. To give you an update on mine and unexploded ordinance incidents, as of yesterday there have been 61 incidents resulting in 27 deaths and 37 injured.

  • I would like to remind all the people of Kosovo to be continually vigilant in where they travel and not to ignore mine warning signs.

  • Yesterday afternoon, 4 ethnic Albanians were arrested in Pristina, whilst evicting ethnic Serbs from their homes. Upon further investigation, it was found that two of those arrested were in possession of unofficial UCK police identity cards. As the responsible force for law and order in Kosovo, KFOR will not tolerate any criminal act that it encounters. At present it is the only legitimate policing force and will remain so until the international police unit is fully operational.

  • In MNB West a Spanish patrol came under fire in Sinaje, while searching a former MUP station, the patrol fired warning shots before they engaged the assailants, one civilian was injured during the incident, 3 persons were arrested, the military police is investigating.

  • The total number of KFOR troops is now approximately 42,400 of which 32,400 are in Kosovo and the remainder are in Macedonia. The Russians are now playing a major role as part of that force with over 700 troops. Currently Russian forces are located at Pristina airport, Kosovo Polje, the area of Kamanica, and the Malisevo area. Five Russian ships arrived at the port of Thessaloniki in Greece, yesterday, and the equipment and personnel will be making their way to Kosovo over the coming days. There is also a road convoy of 18 vehicles moving from Bosnia. It crossed the border early this morning and was on route to the Pristina airport.

  • Let me provide you with a few statistics, at this moment 185 individuals are being detained in relation to various criminal acts of which about 85 % are ethnic Albanians.

  • The numbers of weapons confiscated so far in Kosovo are 1100 AK 47, 500 rifles, 750 pistols, 700 grenades, 165 anti tank weapons, various mines and other armaments. Only yesterday, 1 anti-tank weapon, 4000 rounds of ammunition.

  • Furthermore, in the area between Lipljan and Pristina, a quantity of pistols were handed in to UK forces as part of a local amnesty program. specifically, 62 long-barrelled weapons, 4000 rounds of ammunition, explosives, a quantity of pistols and one rocket launcher

  • KFOR troops are thus continuing in their efforts to provide a secure environment in Kosovo and create a favorable environment towards reconstruction and the creation of a multi ethnic society.

Question from Spanish News Agency: Two questions for KFOR. The first is about this incident you mentioned involving the Spanish patrol. Can you identify the people that were arrested? Second question, last week the political leader Ibraham Rugova said he asked KFOR for protection when he arrived in Kosovo. Can you confirm that he asked for protection, will you be able to provide this protection, and do you know when he is coming to Kosovo?

Answer from Maj Joosten: Reference your first question, I do not have the identity of the people that engaged the Spanish patrol. I will try to find out and get back to you later on that issue. I do not know exactly if Mr Rugova asked KFOR for security, if they are after personal security we look at that on a case by case basis. If it will be the case we will let you know.

Question: Can you bring us up to date on the radio station here in town and what the status us?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: Essentially Radio Pristina is off the air and will remain off the air until we can work out a procedure for re-staffing the radio under the direction of an international director, who should be appointed within the coming days. Various attempts have been made to try and resume a limited level of broadcasting and pull in skeleton crews, if you like, of Albanian and Serbian language journalists and technicians. We were not able to negotiate an agreement that would have allowed that to go forward. In the absence of that type of agreement and in the absence of an overall management structure at RTP I felt that it is better first to have an international director appointed who can then bring these people together and try to resume broadcasting.

So our efforts are focused in that direction right now. As far as is what actually is going out over the frequencies of RTP we are no picking up the international broadcasts of the major international radio broadcasters, you have BBC, VOA, Deutsche Welle, RFI, RFE, all carried at this point in Albanian and Serbian on the 3 radio frequencies of Radio Pristina.

Question from the Guardian: Question for Mr Kennedy. Is there any were in Pristina, or any area in Kosovo were Serbs and Albanians are working together?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I do not have a short answer to that. There are various bodies that have been set up to bring the 2 communities together, to consult on various issues and as you are probably aware the head of the UN Mission Sergia De Mello has been working at the highest level with the leaders of both the Albanian community and the Serbian community to create a Kosovo Transitional Council. That effort is still under way and we hope that it will bear fruit this week.

Question: You both gave figures for mine victims and there were some discrepancies in the numbers and I was just wondering what you sources are for KFOR and UNMIK and what numbers may be the most trustworthy?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I do not think there is a discrepancy there, what I think Jan was talking about deaths specifically and the number of incidents. I am talking about the number of casualties overall and the estimate of the total number that there maybe, subject to verification. So I think that if you look at that, and I apologise we didn't have the time this morning to make sure that we could bring our figure together but I don not think that you'll find that they are inconsistent. The Mine Action Coordination Cell of UNMIK works very closely with KFOR, they are creating and maintaining the database on both mine casualties and on the overall mine threat and mine action. So if any of you look at those figures closely and maybe we can coordinate a little bit, and give you something that pulls all that together. But it is important to look at deaths as one issue of course, but the other issue of course are casualties which maim of severely cripple people.

Question: Could you tell us how many of those casualties are due to NATO Ordnances?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: No I do not have the breakdown.

Question: More on the mines. Can you give us the location and the activity of the people who were killed and injured yesterday? I am also interested in hearing a little bit about, or from KFOR, on how many unmarked mine areas there are, how much work there is still to do to mark min areas? Is there any estimate on how far along you are, and what exactly is being done to impress upon the people the importance of staying off the roads. It is difficult to get the word out to people, I understand due to the lack of radio etc, etc so how is this being handled?

Answer from Maj Joosten. I do not have the exact location of the mines on the top of my head but I will get back to you immediately after the press conference. It was a kind of mud track where they worked on, it was already taped off twice yet still they would drive through the area and unfortunately hit the mine.

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I think that as a follow up I think that it is probably time that we gave you somebody from the Mine Action Centre who can give you the overview and can go through the extent of the level one survey, which is the initial survey, the establishment of the database and what they have got on both the mapping and the statistics.

As far as the mine awareness campaign, as you might know, the humanitarian agencies, including the UNHCR, UNICEF and a large number of the NGO's have been engaged in Mine Awareness Campaigns both in the camps with the refugees, before they began returning to Kosovo, and on return, you may have noticed, on the border crossings coming out of Albania people handing out leaflets and things that have photographs on them and all sorts of mine awareness literature to bring to that attention the danger of mines.

I think that, if my memory serves me correctly, UNICEF has something like 220,000 posters out in circulation. There has been an intensive effort on the part of the humanitarian agencies to get the word out. In terms of other media, once we have a functioning media up and running in Kosovo, it will make it much easier for us to get all sorts of messages and news you can use out to the population and we are really hoping that we can get cooperation from all parties, from the entire political spectrum on the Albanian side and from the Serb community to sit down together and get some broadcasting going.

Answer from Maj Joosten: KFOR soldiers, I can add to that, they will use every opportunity on the local level to invite the people in villages to come over and receive mine awareness training. So whatever we can do to make people aware of the danger of mines, we will take that opportunity.

Question: I have one question for Mr Kennedy. You said that you work hard to reconciliation and to make people of both entities to work together but the last 2 days in Gretcanista 570 Serbs have been imported because KFOR doesn't believe them to go into work? There is 1240 people who were depraved of the right to work in Trepca. I know there are still 20,000 people without jobs and about 30,000 Albanian. So I want to ask you to explain what happened, who made the political decision to leave the Serbs to work with Albanians because they said that in the same time the other Albanians, about 6,000 want to go to work, so who makes this decision and why?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: Okay, first of all I am not familiar with all the numbers that you are quoting and I am not sure that they represent the accurate figures. I don't think we have a verification of that so whatever information you have is clearly not necessarily information that we have on the numbers. On the question of KFOR preventing people from movement, I will ask Jan Joosten if he has something to say about the decisions on the operational level were KFOR feels there is a security concern.

Our concern is that people can return to work, that they can return to work freely and that they can do so without intimidation or threats of violence. That is the objective of the UN Mission, it is a key objective both of the Human Rights and the Civil Administration side as well as on the economic side and the maintenance of essential services. There has been no slacking of efforts to get the situation resolved. So I think that I have to leave the answer at that.

Answer from Maj Joosten: I have no reports of KFOR preventing people from moving to other locations, actually the idea is that we try to enable everybody to move freely within this country or wherever they want to go. If we talk about the Coal Mine, I am sure that we can provide you with a little more detail information afterwards, it is in the area were the UK is working and I know they have put a lot of effort in getting this coal mine up to work again.

Question: I know that a lot of people from Marceva Unrijec are not satisfied with Russian troops being there. Most of the people from Marceva Unrijec simply do not want Russian Troops to be there.

Answer from Maj Joosten: Every population has the right to demonstrate, it is a democratic right. The Russian Troops are participating in KFOR as every other troop they are even handed, they are professional soldiers and don't forget that the Russians have played an enormous role in the peace accord here in Kosovo and we have no doubt that the Russian soldiers will be as professional as the KFOR soldiers. That means an even handed approach, providing security and safety to all people without making a difference between the ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs.

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