Updated: 23 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates


23 Aug. 1999

KFOR Press Statement

by Major Roland Lavoie, KFOR Spokesperson


As part of KFOR's mandate to establish a secure environment in Kosovo, Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams have cleared a significant amount of mines, unexploded ordnance and other types of explosives over the last weeks. Since June 12th, KFOR has disposed of 958 anti-tank mines, 1275 anti-personnel mines, 2470 grenades and quantities of other harmful devices such as artillery shells, mortar rounds, bombs, rockets and missiles.

This is only a part of the overall clearing effort done here in Kosovo. The mandate for the disposal of mines and unexploded ordnance rests with UNMIK, which operates through the United Nations Mine Action and Coordination Centre (UNMACC).

For its part, KFOR is involved in mine and ordnance clearing which is required for the accomplishment of day-to-day operations, for the removal of threats that represent a immediate risk for the population, and also for ensuring the success of important ventures, such as the reopening of schools, industries and public facilities. Our engineers have cleared 159 schools over the last few weeks in order the make sure that children can return to their classrooms and start their academic year without undue delays. You will continue to see them at work all over Kososo, risking their lives to make this province a more secure place to live.

KFOR wishes to remind the population that most mine casualties occur in the vicinity of known and well-marked minefields. Pay attention to warning posts and posters even if you know that others have survived while crossing a minefield. Mines are an indiscriminate threat. They strike without mercy, weather you are young or old, whether you belong to one ethnic group or another.

The number of violent incidents Kosovo-wide remains low, which is encouraging. Both ethnic-based and criminal violence continue to decrease gradually.

In Multinational Brigade Centre yesterday, acting on a report made by an Albanian to the UNMIK Police, a KFOR patrol investigated a site 10km northeast of Pristina. The patrol found two bodies already decomposed. An investigation is ongoing.

In Pristina, yesterday afternoon, a patrol from the 1 Royal Irish Regiment stopped an Albanian man from attacking a Serb woman. Thanks to the rapid reaction of the soldiers, the woman has not been injured. The man is currently detained in Pristina.

Today in Multinational Brigade North, a 7 year-old Albanian girl from Kosovo, named Kimete, will be operated at the French military hospital of Mitrovica. She suffers a hand malformation, having two thumbs on her left hand. French Gendarmerie Officers met her by chance: she fell down in front of a Gendarme during his patrol in Mitrovica, as she was fleeing away from other children. She was slightly injured, so the Gendarme took her to the military hospital and a friendly relationship began between the French Gendarmes and the little girl, who started to go every day to the Gendarmerie headquarters. There is an opportunity to meet the Gendarmes, the surgeon and little Kimete (contact Lt Col. Tanguy: 00 871 761 294 147).

In Mitrovica, yesterday at 2100hrs, the French medical personnel treated three Serbs having been slightly injured by a Molotov cocktail thrown from a passing car.

In early morning yesterday in Multinational Brigade (South), the bodies of a man and a woman, both over 70 year-old, were found in an apartment in Prizren. The victims both died from gun shots. An investigation is ongoing to solve that crime.

In accordance to the Helsinki agreement, starting today, the Russian troops will gradually take over their area of responsibility (AOR) in Orahovac. The Dutch troops will redeploy within Multinational Brigade (South). This arrival of highly trained and professional KFOR troops in this area will increase KFOR's ability to restore security in the region.

Yesterday, the Serb population of Orahovac continued to hand over their weapons to KFOR troops. Over 500 small arms were given in yesterday. The day before, following a request made by the Dutch battalion commander, the Serbs at Orahovac handed over to KFOR 250 AK 47's, 5 machine guns, 4 hand grenades, 30 rifles and ammunition.

On Saturday, German troops called in by a farmer found 143 mines that were hidden in the ground 1 km west of Zur. A German Explosive Ordnance Disposal team blew-up the detonators on scene and the rest of the mines was taken away pending their destruction.

At 23:00 hrs yesterday night, three people without ID cards and carrying arms were arrested in Prizren when controlled by KFOR troops. They are currently detained in Prizren and their weapons and some documents were confiscated.

Today, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company begins the final week of clearing local schools in the Multinational Brigade (East) area. At the end of this week, American EOD personnel will have cleared 179 schools throughout the area of operations. Combined with the large amount of school supplies donated from American families, churches and other organizations back home, this year promises to bring a safe and rewarding educational experience to all the children in this area.

In Multinational Brigade West Serb people living in the enclave of Gorazdevac can rely on a permanent medical facility located in the village. Two medical doctors and a group of nurses provide health care and assistance to local people. Since their arrival they have treated 252 patients and distributed medicines and toiletries. In addition to this medical support, the brigade also supports a humanitarian distribution point, which have been distributed 5 tons of food supply up to now.

Yesterday evening, 20 km southwest of Decane, gunshots were heard and a patrol was rapidly dispatched to the site. They found 7 men apparently conducting small arm training and claiming to be members of the UCK. One man was wearing uniform and carrying a rifle. The weapon was confiscated and the soldiers will be questioned this morning.

Yesterday evening in of Crkolez, 25 km north-east of Pec, A KFOR patrol responded to a call from inhabitants reporting a fire. The patrol came under fire and a second patrol came to the scene and conducted a cordon operation. No one was arrested nor injured.

Question from Kosovo Press: Has Bernard Kuchner ever visited Broukachiem area and Graniza area? Has he gone to these areas and visited local population? Judging from the reaction of local Serbs in Orahovac in the last three days when they learned that their names were actually on a list that were in custody of KFOR. Now they've been handing over weapons. Are KFOR and UNMIC confident that the weapons that are been handed in are all the weapons that are available to these people? And, is KFOR and UNMIC confident that the Russians will do what the Dutch have done in the last three days, which is, finally, come in and capture men who are wanted by UNMIK for a long time then?

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: I don't believe he's visited those two areas. He has announced that he intends to spend two days of every week, if it is possible with his schedule, visiting the entire region of Kosovo, so that could well be in the plan.

Answer by Maj Roland Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman: Concerning the handover of the weapons, we are quite aware that we won't come to a 100% solution and there will always be some weapons somewhere in the area like it is in all countries basically. Our goal has been to take as many of them as possible and to make people feel more secure because they know that there is not a big amount of weapons around. So basically we encourage people to give us their weapons. We had a very good return like over 250 the first day and 500 the second day. We will continue that operation as long as we think it will be necessary. For those who refuse to hand their weapon in, we might have to do a couple of searches to make sure that everybody has handed in their weapon and not just those who are willing to do so. Concerning your second question on our confidence towards the Russian contingent: First, we welcome them, we are very pleased to see that they will add to the security in the brigade. And second, yes, we are confident that they will do a good job. Just keep in mind what happened in Kamenica when they arrived: there was a lot of mistrust, some people tended to think that they would not fulfill their mandate. They have done so. Recently we have seen some very encouraging signs: for example, the curfew hours were pushed back to 1100 pm from 0800 pm. They opened a medical facility near Pristina. They have been very involved in search and arrest and in checkpoint operations, and we believe, that they will do the same great job in Orahovac.

Question from Reuters TV: I just like to get your reaction to the blockading of Orahovac this morning. It seems that all three roads are totally blocked. We saw a Russian patrol being turned back by Albanians. What are you going to do about it? And, in a certain sense doesn't that represent a bit of a failure?

Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman: Actually, we are on day one of the deployment of the Russians in Orahovac. We military do not quit after the first attempt. Obviously we are aware that there's a lot of convincing to do. I know some people are concerned. They had a very good support and service and the situation was very good before, and they would like to keep the same troops near to them, those who protected their lives basically, made their live a lot easier and safer. So we have a lot of convincing to do - and that's what we will do - make an appeal to the population to realize that the Russians are there to do just the same great job. Plus, there is still all the other nations around here in Kosovo. We're now over twenty countries. The German police station will remain open in Orahovac, so we are not abandoning the population - on contrary - we are increasing our presence in the area for the well being of all.

Further question from (inaudible):

Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman:
I don't want to speculate on what will happen in the future, but we have seen in the past in Kamenica, that after a while people realized that these troops were there to help them and the situation got a lot easier and the tension decreased. So you have to give us some time. We are at day one of the deployment. It took about two months to develop very good relationships in all their areas and we expect that it will take some time also. There's a lot of people who have a different opinions about different national contingents and they have to be given the chance to see them at work, to see that they could be trusted.

Question from Reuters: Could you tell us a little bit about the decision that is made to prosecute people domestically for war crimes as a pose to taking them to the tribunal. For instance, is there a war crimes statute in the law that prevails here and what exactly are the men likely to be charged with. Also, how is that decision made, maybe there's an easy explanation for it but it sounds interesting. And for KFOR: you've mentioned that the number of serious incidents seems to be declining. Could you give us - if not today maybe at the next briefing - some background, I mean what's the yardstick that you're judging that by because, for instance, on our street in one place in this city there are incidents virtually every day and there have been virtually every day for the last week. Now maybe we just happen to be in a hotspot, but anecdotally, it seems like there's an awful lot going on and it would be interesting to know how you're making that statement and against what yardstick.

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: On your first question on the war crimes statute that is being applied, I'm going to have to check that and come back to you. On the second one I will say that I really don't want to say any more on it, so as not to pre-judge the outcome of the investigation.

Further question Who made the decision that these people would be arrested and tried domestically. Was that a decision of the local judiciary, was it the decision of Mr Kuchner.

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: It was the decision of UNMIK, which was carried out with the help of KFOR.

Further question And was there a consideration that these people might be sent to The Hague or was that never on.

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: No I think that it was intended that they would be tried here by the domestic courts. More than that I can't tell you… I really can't.

Further question But you might be able to provide us with a reason for that, I mean, at some point there would be a reason why they decided to try them here as a pose to The Hague.

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: I will try and get that for you.

Answer from Maj Lavoie - NATO Spokesman: As far as your second question is concerned. Obviously the security assessment that we do is based on the overall security in Kosovo from a military point of view. We know that there's a lot of shooting incidents without any consequences. Our assessment is based basically on the main indicators that are: the murder rate, the number of arsons and the number of lootings, although we also, as an overview, consider other indicators but those are not the primary ones. So basically, in terms of murders, that rate is going down and the same for the lootings and arson. Although arson:

Remainder inaudible due to technical problems.

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