Updated: 30 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates


30 Aug. 1999

KFOR Press Update

by Major Roland Lavoie, KFOR Spokesperson


First, an update on Saturday's tragic incident in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia which claimed the lives of four civilians. It has now been confirmed that the driver of the military vehicle is now detained by the FYROM authorities pending further investigation. However, as he was on duty at the time of the accident, this matter falls under the jurisdiction of Norway in accordance with the Basic Agreement signed between the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and NATO. For those who wish to know more on this this accident, a press brief is scheduled for 15:00 today at the Continental Hotel in Skopje.

Yesterday at 12:00, another tragic road traffic accident involving a KFOR truck took place north of Skopje, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, when a trailer detached from the vehicle and drifted into an on-coming civilian vehicle. The driver of the civilian vehicle was seriously injured and received first aid at the scene. The KFOR driver was questioned by the Macedonian Police and his now back at his unit.

The overall situation in Kosovo remained quiet over the last 24 hours.

In Multinational Brigade Centre yesterday, the body of a 25 year-old Albanian man killed recently by a gunshot was found in Devet Jugovica, 5 km north of Pristina. The British Special Investigating Branch is currently investigating this murder.

Yesterday in Pristina two Serbs were beaten by a group of five to six ethnic Albanian men. One suffered serious injuries and both are currently in Pristina hospital. This assault is currently under investigation.

In Kosovo Polje an explosion was heard overnight. Initial reports suggest that a grenade was thrown from a passing car and no injuries or damage were reported.

In Multinational Brigade East yesterday afternoon, KFOR Military Police arrested one 18 year-old civilian man involved in a hit and run accident. The driver first hit a child and attempted to flee from the scene at high speed. He then crashed into a school playground and hit another child who died shortly after. The surviving child was evacuated to Urosevac hospital where is in a stable condition.

On Friday, 1st Military Police Company is taking school supplies to Ugljare. This is the school they adopted over a month ago. The MPs have received a lot of support from family members back in Germany as well as from various church groups and other organisations.

KFOR was involved in another medical evacuation in Multinational Brigade East yesterday evening, when a 8 year-old boy was injured during a hit-and-run accident in Tankosic, northwest of Vitina.

Today in Klina, in Multinational Brigade West, the Portuguese battalion is starting to operate a refuse collection program with KFOR trucks and drivers in co-operation with the non-governmental organization Oxfam.

In Prizren, in Multinational Brigade South, KFOR troops collected money among their own contingent to provide refrigerators that will be used for storing Polio inoculation doses to be given to the local children in the area.

In Multinational Brigade North, KFOR pursues its search operations in this brigade in order to catch potential criminals and confiscate weapons. Yesterday morning, 12 houses were searched in the village of Bencuk, 8 km south of Vucitrn. One riffle, one grenade and 1 anti-tank grenade were confiscated. This kind of operations demonstrates quite well all the efforts that required to remove, one by one, deadly weapons from the hands of individuals. The task ahead of us is still enormous but we will keep on disarming Kosovo until the population will feel at last safe on their own territory.

Starting today, 136 ethnic Albanian families will return to North Mitrovica with the support of KFOR escort and UNHCR. This operation should be completed by the end of this week.

Finally, last week I was asked to provide the exact number of KFOR troops. KFOR now has a strength of 48,030 coming from 24 countries. Out of this number 41,618 are deployed in Kosovo, 6,249 in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and 163 in rear headquarters in Greece. These new figures reflect the arrival of the advance party of the Austrian contingent (175 soldiers) and the deployment of 25 soldiers from Switzerland in Multinational Brigade South. Also, the Greek contingent now has a strength of 525 and will have completed its deployment in Multinational Brigade Centre by the end of this week.

Question from New York Times: Question for UNMIK probably, well for both of you perhaps. Are there any plans to have Traffic Police in Kosovo along with ordinary Police, in view of all of these accidents?

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: I think I don't know your answer but I would imagine yes, I think that now it is just deploying the foot patrols in, as I said the high crime areas. But I think that it must be down the line that there will be Traffic Police.

Follow-up Question: Inaudible.

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: Well as I am saying I do not have the answer to your question, so let me get the answer and then I'll give you a more enlightened answer.

Question from Reuters: A couple of questions: The first one regarding customs, there was a Yugoslav news agency report at the weekend that a couple of truck drivers from Kosovo Polije reported being stopped close to the Provincial border by people who said they were KLA border guards or customs officials and they were asked to pay duties and to pay them to an office in central Pristina. Their report said that both UNMIK and KFOR had been informed, do you have any details about that? Getting back to the strength of KFOR, overall, there was a report initially, I think, that the strength was going to be increased and I checked on this report and it came originally from the something that the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee said in the Czech Republic. I wondered if you could shed any light on what whether the overall strength if going to be increased, or what the overall level is going to flatten out at? Thank you very much.

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: On the first question we've heard those stories before, I am not sure that we were informed officially, I could certainly find out. Our answer is a little bit that you can't replace something with nothing. In other words, there is still a gap in our administration, UNMIK is trying to fill that through emergency measures, the setting up of the customs regime is one of them which we hope will be operation very soon. We feel, we hope at least, that once our administration is in place that those kind of activities will either merge with us or disappear in time.

Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman: I do not have the specifics on each of the incidents that could be reported in the border or near the borders. For that it will have to be addressed to the Brigade. What I could say, however, is that we had reports of some incidents of temporary road blocks, or people asking money from mainly truckers to go through, not through borders exactly at the border, but near the border areas. These incidents are not very numerous and normally these alleged check points are only there for a few minutes. So there is one or 2 trucks being stopped and then they disappear. So it is not a systematic trend and we are always investigating those because we take them very seriously. As far as the strength of KFOR is concerned, the 50,000 figure is obviously an approximate number and, yes, we are still growing because we are still at about 2,000 troops from that ceiling, which is more or less flexible. So there is nobody that has said that we will never raise over 50,000. It is a question of the willingness of the International Community to proved assets and it also depends on the situation on the terrain to know what is required. So, for the moment we will gradually continue to increase up to 50,000 people and we will see if there is any requirement for additional resources.

Question from BBC: One Military matter, one UNMIK matter. On the Orahovac standoff, KFOR keep telling us that they are not there to negotiate, can you tell us why the talks are dragging on so long there? Can you be more specific on the delay on the scanning for the volunteers for the Police Force, what is the cause for the delay here?

Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman: For Orahovac, there were no talks over the weekend and that was planned that way, so basically talks would be resuming today, and I expect to be able to provide an update in tomorrow's update. But the last update that I have got was after the discussions on Friday, which were seen to have been positive, considering that for the first time we had at the same table people representing all those involved, both ethnic Albanians, Serbs, Russians, the Brigade Commander, German and Dutch. So now we have cleared the table of all concerns that have been expressed and listened to and it is thought it is now time to go back to business and try to solve that as rapidly as possible. As you know the Autumn is fast approaching and there are a lot of projects that will have to be started in Orahovac. And the contribution of the Russian Contingent - from helping for schools, engineering works, and mainly security operations which is our main job - will have to start as soon as possible.

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson: Can I add also on the Orahovac negotiations that SRSC, Bernard Kouchner, has sent today his Political Advisor, Mr Boroman to see if, on our side we can help in bringing the negotiations a little bit faster to a conclusion. On the question of the Police School, I have nothing more than just delays due to the vetting and screening process. The Police Commissioner and the Head of the Police Academy to delay the opening rather than bring in the wrong or unsuitable people.

Question from SAT1: Once again Orahovac negotiating, is there anything you can offer as to what could be a compromise there, from the KFOR side to the Albanians?

Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman: We will not speculate at this time of the specifics of what is being discussed. What I could tell you, however, is that already we know it is our intention to allow a multinational presence in Orahovac and around Orahovac. The presence of the German Military Police Station has been discussed, as an example of the preservation of this multinational presence in the area. However it is too soon at the moment to start to do an open debate over the situation because it is to those involved at that round table to discuss that first.


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