Header
Updated: 5 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates

Pristina,
Kosovo

4 Aug. 1999

KFOR Press Statement

by KFOR Spokesperson, Major Roland Lavoie

  • In early afternoon yesterday, the bodies of one Serb male and one Serb female were found in Pristina. It appears that the two victims, both over the age of 50, had been killed in the last 48 hours. Special Investigation Branch personnel are currently investigating this crime.

  • Yesterday evening, in the area of Vrbovac, two gunmen fired four rounds at an elderly Serb couple, inflicting serious injuries to the woman. A KFOR patrol responding to the incident came under small arm fire but suffered no casualties. Both aggressions are being investigated.

  • At 20:30 yesterday evening, a bomb exploded at the door of a previously, heavily damaged Orthodox church located in Ade.

  • An arm cache was found yesterday evening in Osjlane during a KFOR search conducted in MNB (North). They found and seized 33 AK47s, two heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, mines, hand grenades and several thousands rounds of ammunition.

  • Another cache was found in Zupce. The Gendarmerie seized one rocket-propelled grenade, five automatic rifles with rounds, hand grenades and pistols.

  • KFOR is the only authorized military force in Kosovo. We will continue aggressive search operations throughout Kosovo in an effort to establish a secure and safe environment.

  • Just after midnight, KFOR patrols witnessed two explosions in the area of Gracanica. Initial reports revealed no injuries or significant damage. An investigation is underway.

  • Yesterday, in MNB S a German patrol arrested eight ethnic Albanians for using threats to evict 17 Serbs from their home in Bogosevac. They were taken to jail in Prizren.

  • Later last night in MNB (Centre), a patrol heard an explosion between two houses and came under small arms fire when they arrived at the site. They returned fire and nobody was injured during the exchange. No arrests have been reported as of 09:00 this morning.

  • Yesterday, the U.S. forces provided another 1000 gallons of fuel to farmers in the Stirpje area as part of the ongoing Operation Harvest.

  • Yesterday the U.S. contingent restored power to the Stirpje area. The population of Stirpje has been without power for weeks. On a case by case basis, KFOR provides assistance to the UN Mission in Kosovo, including the restoration of core civil functions until transferred to UNMIK.

  • In MNB (South) yesterday afternoon, KFOR German Military Police arrested one male at the Albanian border. He was carrying nine AK-47s and 243 rounds of ammunition, which were confiscated.

    Announcements:

  • The new U.S. Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen Shinseki, will visit Camp Bondsteel and Camp Montieth tomorrow. He will arrive at Camp Bondsteel at 11:35 and there will be a media opportunity at Camp Montieth at 14:15. Those interested in attending should check our information board.

  • There is a Pipes and Drums Display by the 1st Battalion of the Royal Ghurkha Rifles to be held in Janjevo on Thusday 5 August at 18:00. For further details please contact the MNB (Centre) Press Information Centre.

  • Your are invited to have a look at our Press Information board for other media opportunities, including a news conference this Thursday with a UN Police Commissioner update.

Question from Kosova Press: Did you by any chance follow up on the question about the masked men at the Russian checkpoints? If you cannot answer that, could you answer, what can people of Kamonica, in particular Albanians, how can they be assured by KFOR that there safe return, which is a mandate of KFOR to come here and provide safe return for Albanians, how can KFOR assure a safe return for theses people if they feel that they are being threatened, on a daily basis at various points?

Answer from Maj Lavoie: First point, we have heard and received several comments concerning Serbs being with KFOR Russian Troops. Most of these reports have not been substantiated, there is a lot of speculation going on, there are a lot of people who do not accept the presence of the Russian here but we have to recognise that the Russian Contingent is a part of KFOR, under KFOR command and we are fully confident that they are here to do an essential job. We want them to be here and we believe that they are a key element to the success of this mission. If some individuals are concerned about the presence of whatever ethnic group that are accompanying KFOR Troops they could always notify it, but not by rumour, but as a direct witness of any incident we shall encourage them to report it directly to the KFOR Headquarters or directly to the Brigades.

As far as the second aspect we could ensure the security of the population here and this is true for all ethnic groups. We are here to provide a robust, overall, law and order in Kosovo and we do our best to do that. There is a very large International presence in Kosovo and we believe that we could make a difference. If some people feel threatened we expect them to trust us and let us know their concerns and report any incident they could witness here in Kosovo whatever their ethnic group.

Question unheard due to the impatience of the individual:

Answer from Maj Lavoie: Our safety measures are based on regular threat assessments, this is true for each city and village in Kosovo so basically we do a threat assessment, which is based on reports that come from the local population but also reports that come from intelligence sources. That threat assessment is done on a daily basis and we make daily adjustments to that in accordance with those reports. So lately one of the concerns that has been addressed, and will continue to be addressed, is mainly the protection of Serb minorities, Serb monument, churches and an area were you have small numbers of an ethnic minority.

We regret that some people do not feel safe enough, but they prefer to relocate to other regions, but we encourage them to remain where they are and to report any incident that they could witness. We do our best with our partners to increase our presence and be visible and respond rapidly to any form of threat that can be identified. I think that the finding of 2 weapon caches, for example, yesterday is a clear example of our quick intervention whether we are told valuable information that enables us to bring peace and stability to the region.

Question: Over a month ago now, the mayor of Mitrovica, the Serb part of Mitrovica, was arrested and he is apparently being still being held, I assume because, I would like you first of all to confirm that he is well and he is being held here in Pristina and is it possible to see him? Also what are the charges and when will he be brought to trial?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I do not have any information on that case but I will have to get it and report back to you.

Question: Giving the fact that the report on minorities was issued last week by the UNHCR and the OSCE and they said that virtually all of the Albanian community have left Mitrisavic. How do you respond to the argument that a defacto partition within Kosovo despite the fact that the international community repeats that we do not want to repeat Bosnia but create a Kosovo for all ethnic groups?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I think the only response we can make is that we are doing everything that we possibly can to try and maintain a multi ethnic society in Kosovo, that is part of the task that has been passed to us by the Security Council in creating both the international civilian presence and the security presence. While I have to echo my colleagues comments that we regret that people feel that they are not safe and cannot stay in certain areas. We have made every attempt, as you all know, to call on all people of Kosovo, down to the village level to the family level to refrain from violence and to demonstrate tolerance towards others.

Ultimately, and as we have said repeatedly, we are not in a position where we can put an armed KFOR soldier or armed Policeman alongside every member of a minority, or indeed, any body in Kosovo that feel threatened by the situation but we are doing the best we can to try and create conditions where people can respect the rule of law and allow communities to live together and start the process towards reconsiliation here.

Follow up: How confident are you that in the long term this division of multi ethnic Kosovo is possible:

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I do not think that we have the luxury of dealing with the long term, we have to deal with the here and now and every effort is being made to step up the deployment of the police, every efforts is being made to press governments to provide us with the people that we need at a critical time and I think that we all realise that now is a very critical time. The long term we will deal with down the road but we have to deal with the immediate needs.

Question from Nick Phipps, ITN: As you know there are thousands of Kosovo Albanians jailed in Serbia that were rounded up in the weeks leading up to the Serb withdrawal. Do you have any more information about them, about how soon they may be released and about any work that you are doing to help their release?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: As you might know ICRC and UNMIK have both made extensive efforts to make contact both with the Serb Officials about the holding of those prisoners, to obtain information about them and to provide that information to their families. I cannot say that they are closer to release or that there is any impending release of them but this is an issue that remains very high on the agenda both of ICRC, which I have the lead in and UNMIK. In terms of the conditions that they are held I think that you will need to go to the ICRC with that, they have had visits with the prisoners, I believe.

Question from Radio France International: What is the official reason given by the Macedonian Government with regard to the truck affair to impose that fee? Are you ready to negotiate a minor fee, or is your position not to pay at all?

Answer from Mr Redmond: The background to this is that there are such huge numbers of vehicle crossing through that checkpoint that they have had to increase staffing, for example, wear and tear on the road, customs inspection procedures had to be strengthened, but the UNHCR has also provided funding for that. We believe, as I said this fee is disproportionate to the level of service that is being provided. The talks this afternoon, I am not exactly what sort of an agreement that they are going to hammer out, there has been discussion on some kind of reduction of this fee. We do not normally pay this type of fee for the provision of humanitarian assistance in UN Operations anywhere, but we are willing to consider providing help and assistance if governments need such help in beefing up the infrastructure, so that this kind of programme can be carried out.

Question from CNN: There have been a substantial number of weapons caches found in the last few days in the Italian Sector and in the French Sector. Are you taking that up with General Ceku as this is a clear violation of the Undertaking? What is his explanation about that and are you satisfied with his explanation?

Answer from Maj Lavoie: For the recent cache we have to collect the data that will be provided by the investigation. First we have to find the origin of the cache and to see if it was a cache belonging to the UCK or not. If the cache was belonging to a given group, obviously that would be addressed very seriously.

Question: You said before that if these trucks stay on the other side of the border this is going to delay a lot of projects. Could you be more specific in what way?

Answer from Mr Redmond: It is virtually the entire humanitarian programme in Ksovo, because we along with the other partners and agencies have agreed not to pay this fee. Therefore, the trucks are just sitting there and could eventually affect the virtuall whole range of programmes. We think that it is going to be resolved, or hopeful that it will be, but most of the rail wagons that are sat there, 17 of them with some 850 metric tonnes of timber. This timber will be used for our shelter rehabilitation programme in which we wan to help up to 500,000 people in Kosovo, weather proof at least one or 2 rooms in their houses.

Go to Homepage Go to Index