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Updated: 15 October 1999 KFOR Press Updates

Pristina,
Kosovo

15 Oct. 1999

KFOR Press Update

by Major Roland Lavoie, KFOR Spokesperson

Once again, the situation was quiet over Kosovo yesterday and overnight. This is due in part to the work of KFOR and UNMIK, but we must acknowledge that our main partner, the population of Kosovo, is the one that should be credited first for their restraint and their constructive efforts to rebuild Kosovo peacefully. Despite several demonstrations held over the last few days, the people of Kosovo -- be they Albanian, Serb, Roma or from another background -- have shown that there are many ways to solve difficult situations without having to use force or violence.

A good example of this resolve to turn towards a better future is an interesting gesture made by an 80 year-old woman yesterday in Multinational Brigade South. She just decided to turn-in voluntarily an AK-47 to KFOR troops.


On the subject of weapons, you are probably aware that KFOR is currently conducting a weapons destruction operation at the Obilic Kosovomont factory, in Multinational Brigade Centre. I would like to take this opportunity to give you an update on weapons collection, storage and disposal.

As part of its security mandate, stated in UN Security Council Resolution 1244, KFOR is committed to the monitoring, verification and enforcement of the demilitarization process in Kosovo. Collection, storage and disposal of weapons and ammunition are key elements of this process and have greatly contributed to the gradual return of normal life in Kosovo.

As you can see on this slide, since the arrival of KFOR in Kosovo, on June 12th 1999, a large number of weapons have been handed-in voluntarily by the former KLA as part of their Undertaking of Demilitarization and Transformation, which lead to the collection of over 10,000 weapons. Other weapons or ammunition were handed-in by individuals who owned them or who found them. KFOR has also confiscated many weapons, often at the scene of a crime or through checkpoint controls, cordon and search operations, border and boundary monitoring, etc.

All these weapons are stored in seven Secure Weapons Storage Sites (SWSS) located throughout the province. These sites are: Plana and Srbica (Multinational Brigade North), Camp Bondsteel (Multinational Brigade East), Denocha (Multinational Brigade South), Rznic (Multinational Brigade West), Tenesdo and Lebane (both in Multinational Brigade Centre). As of October 6th 1999, our in Secure Weapons Storage Sites contain the following: over 10,000 rifles, 1,600 pistols, nearly 900 machine-guns, 200 mortar launchers, over 27,000 grenades, 1,400 mines, and nearly 500 anti-tank weapons (guns, rockets and missiles).

KFOR is the custodian of all weapons voluntarily handed-over as part of the demilitarization process. This means that most of these weapons will be kept under tight control until the legitimate civilian authority makes a decision about their eventual use or destruction. In the meantime, weapons and ammunition that cannot be stored safely are destroyed as required.

All confiscated weapons, except those kept as evidence for criminal investigations and proceedings, will eventually be destroyed. Weapons and ammunition are destroyed by various means, depending on availability of disposal resources and the nature of what is to be destroyed. Usually, ammunition is defused or exploded. Non-explosive weapons can be incinerated, crushed, cut or shredded.

It is realistic to assume that, despite all efforts made to collect weapons, many people still have weapons and ammunition that represent a real danger to everybody in Kosovo, be they Albanian, Serb, Roma or from any another ethnic background. This is why KFOR is making an appeal to all the people of Kosovo, to turn-in weapons and munitions to any KFOR or UNMIK patrol or facilities.

Every weapon turned in will make Kosovo a safer place for all.

A brief reminder however, although we welcome the turn-in of weapons, please stress in your news report that the population should nor handle unexploded ordnance or mines. The presence of unexploded ordnance or mines should be notified to us and we will send trained experts to remove them.


Now let's have a quick look at the situation in the brigades.

In Multinational Brigade Centre, Pristina airport reopens to civilian commercial traffic today. KFOR has been heavily involved in the process and continues to support the operations. The Royal Air Force provides air traffic control, fire and rescue services, and controls overall movement. The Royal Engineers have repaired the runway and, in conjunction with the Royal Air Force, have cleared the are of mines and unexploded ordnance. The Russians and Royal Air Force Police are responsible for airport security, with the Canadians responsible for the security of the surrounding area.

The return of commercial flight traffic illustrates the excellent co-operation between KFOR's contingents and between KFOR an UNMIK, which is the authority responsible for the airport. Furthermore, this milestone is a sign that the overall security situation in Kosovo has improved considerably over the last four months.

In Multinational Brigade West the body of a man was found at 2:00hrs last night in Decane, north of Dakovica. Initial reports reveal that the man might have been the victim of a hit-an-run car accident. Earlier last night, another patrol searched a suspect house in Klina and found one anti-personnel mine, one hand grenade, two gas masks and one flak jacket. This case is currently under investigation.

In Multinational Brigade South yesterday morning, a patrol once again prevented an unidentified man from crossing the border at Vrbnica. Two warning shots were fired and the man escaped back across the border. The brigade also reported a medical evacuation of three Albanians injured during a road traffic accident in Geljance. The men are now in a stable condition at the Prizren hospital.

In Multinational Brigade North, yesterday, a ACT AID truck went to Golbulja, Slatina and Banjska, north of Vucitrn, in order to deliver humanitarian goods including clothing and shoes to the local population. Troops from the United Arab Emirates provided security during this operation.

An aircraft full of humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates will land tomorrow morning in Pristina's airport at 8.00hrs. Food and clothes load will then be transported to Vucitrn, from where they will later be delivered by United Arab Emirates Battalion in its area of responsibility.

The United Arab Emirates battalion also provides free medical care to the local population of the Vucitrn area, thanks to their field hospital, which welcomes between 350 and 370 patients on a daily basis. The medical staff is composed of 11 specialized doctors and 38 medical staff, who have treated more than 6,000 people for the single month of September. The field hospital, which includes also emergency, first aid and ambulance services, is operating 24 hours a day.

Finally, in Multinational Brigade East, the brigade reported a quiet situation for the last 24 hours. One 29 year-old Albanian man injured during a motorcycle accident was given first aid and was evacuated the Greek infirmary and then to Pristina hospital yesterday.

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