Updated: 1 September 1999 KFOR Press Updates


1 Sept. 1999

KFOR Press Update

by Major Roland Lavoie, KFOR Spokesperson


Latest Crime Figures
First, in response to those who asked an update on various crimes committed in Kosovo, let me give you an overview of confirmed figures for the period June 12th to August 28th1999.

As you can see on this first slide, the overall security situation in Kosovo has improve considerably over the last weeks. This graphic provides the total number of crimes for murder, arson and looting at the end of each week since the arrival of KFOR in Kosovo. We were averaging 30 or more murders a week when we stated to deploy, but slowly and gradually this number has gone down to 12 murders for the week ending on August 21st and to 7 murders last week.

Every murder is one too many, but if we look at these figures in terms of crime rate per 100,000 people, which is the internationally recognized standard, we can see, for example, that the murder rate in Kosovo has fallen considerably and constantly.

My goal is not to argue that we are happy about the current situation. Far from that. Kosovo is still a place where too many innocent people suffer for no reasons. 965 looting incidents, 912 arsons and 286 murders were committed since June 12th! One must acknowledge however that the security situation is gradually stabilising and that, maybe, those who were still frighten yesterday may begin to feel at home here in Kosovo.

Reopening of Schools
Today, the first schools in Kosovo open again. In the weeks ahead, more and more will open, as the necessary facilities, teachers, books and other necessities become available, and with further repair and refurbishment of school buildings as well as clearing of the schools for mines and unexploded ordnance.

To ensure the start of the new school year in a secure environment, UNMIK has had several NGO demining teams working on clearing schools for mines and unexploded ordnance, under the direction of UNMACC (Mine Action Co-Ordination Centre). KFOR too has been and is supporting UNMACC in this effort. Clearing of schools is a priority task for KFOR. This is being carried out in close cooperation between KFOR and UNMACC. So far, the five brigades have all in all cleared 378 schools. Three of the five brigades have completed their school clearing missions in their areas of responsibility, and in the other two brigades the clearing is proceeding very well. Clearly, we have now completed over 60 per cent of the school clearing. We started about three weeks ago.

In clearing schools KFOR takes an active part in the rebuilding of social structures and social life in Kosovo. The start of education in schools is an important step on the way to normalisation of life and is an investment for a peaceful future of the citizens in Kosovo.

KFOR's explosive ordnance disposal teams look for anything that poses a threat: booby-traps, mines, unexploded ordnance etc. The clearance includes not only the school, but also the playground, the immediate surrounding area and routes to the school.

On the 6th of September UNICEF will start delivering school furniture to those schools who need it.

Now let's have a look at the situation in each brigade for the last 24 hours.

A belated report has been received from 1 Irish Guards in Multinational Brigade Centre. On Monday at 17:55hrs, a successful search was made in North of Pestina, acting on information from locals. One AK-47, one shotgun, one pistol, and rounds were confiscated.

During a routine KFOR patrol by the Household Cavalry and Irish Guards on 31 August, a mother and five children were found suffering from severe malnutrition in a small village north-east of Pristina. The family has been handed over to the UNHCR for further assistance. As the winter draws near, this may be an increasing problem for families living in remote areas.

The Marticane School in Pristina is reopening today, thanks to the hard work of the Royal Irish Regiment and the parents of the pupils. As part of our commitment to help rebuild society, a Department of International Development (DFID) grant of 30,000 DM and the hard work of the Royal Irish have enabled the parents to rebuild their children's school. The school's 30 teachers are starting their autumn term with some 700 pupils ranging from pre-school age, to college age.

Yesterday evening in Mitrovica, in Multinational Brigade North, four small explosions occurred in the northern part of the city although no casualties or significant damage were reported. Both Serb and Albanian apartments were targeted and KFOR is currently investigation these incidents.

The first cultural event for months will take place today in Mitrovica. M. Mladen Popovic, graduate from the Art Academy of Skopje, will present a preview of his painting exhibition where media are invited tonight at 19:30 hrs. Watercolors like "Old Mitrovica" or "Spring on Ibar" will be exhibited until September 10th in the CIMIC building of Mitrovica. With this exhibition, the French CIMIC Center inaugurates its cultural activities and hopes that it will give local people the opportunity to express themselves and intensify community relationships. Similar activities will occur twice a month.

Apart for sporadic small arm fire and three arrests for looting, Multinational Brigade South reported a calm situation for the fourth consecutive day.

In the area of Semetiste, 5 km northwest of Suva Reka, the German CIMIC Company erected 11 tents as a substitute for the completely destroyed school buildings. Eight of these tents -are going to be used as classrooms, three of the tents will be used as accommodation and preparation room for the teachers.

Last Monday in Multinational Brigade East, an Albanian vehicle came under fire at 9:20 a.m. near (450m) Ranilvg, south of Kamenica. The Russian quick reaction force (QRF) responded and provided medical attention to the two casualties. The Russian QRF found one Albanian male and one Albanian female injured by AK-47 fire. The male was shot in the shoulder, neck, and head. The female was shot in the right foot. Their vehicle was found near Ranilvg, south of Kamenica. The soldiers took the injured Albanians to the Russian medical unit, where they were released after treatment at their request. The assailant(s) are unknown, but approximately 20 AK-47 shell cases were found at the scene.

Operation "Tiger Rosa", the pledge signed by the director of the bus service in Gnjilane and the drivers on August 29, 1999 is in effect. The pledge concerns providing equal service to all riders (Serbian or Albanian). Operation "Tiger Rosa" includes soldiers from TF 1-77 who are riding the buses to ensure security for all riders.

Today in Multinational Brigade West, the Portuguese battalion will begin a vaccination campaign in the town of Klina. The brigade might provide more details if you want to cover this campaign.

Question from Newsday: Ron mentioned that the weather is changing and it certainly has - there's a lot of rain - and obviously muddy tracks, dirt tracks, get much worse. There's a number of places on major roads where bridges are out, NATO bombed them in several cases, thinking of the Pec road and probably the Mirovica road where traffic has to go on a rather long detour to what was dust the other day, which now has become mud. Who's responsible for the repair of those bridges? It is a couple of months on. Is the UN responsible? Is NATO responsible? When do they get repaired?

Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesperson: Obviously, the rebuilding and reconstruction is one of the four pillars of the UNMIC mission. So basically the overall responsibility is under UNMIC. However, as far as KFOR is concerned, we have been working on bridges when it was either necessary for our own mission, or when it was seen as an urgent requirement for the overall security and civil presence in Kosovo. We talk here about main roads and areas where a huge amount of supply had to go through and could not be contacted by train.

Answer from Daniela Rozgonova - UNMIK Spokesperson:
I can say only from my own experience (inaudible) that replaces the blown up bridge. It is only one lane and causes incredible delay. As to the UNMIC role, (inaudible) the European Union, European Commission is responsible for the overall reconstruction and of the physical (inaudible) as well, such as bridges. I don't have any specific information as to the bridges or what the timing might be for the reconstruction of the bridges that I can acknowledge at the time.

Remainder inaudible due technical difficulties


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