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News 22 May 12

EULEX Raids Home of Zvonko Veselinovic

EULEX Special Police Forces raided the home of Zvonko Veselinovic in the troubled north of Kosovo on Tuesday morning. Local residents protested the action and for two hours prevented police from leaving the village.

Fatmir Aliu

Early on Tuesday morning, EU Mission to Kosovo police officers raided the property of controversial Kosovo Serb businessman Zvonko Veselinovic, in the north of the country.

A EULEX press office statement said the operation was conducted with the assistance of its Special Police Unit, in the village of Doljane near Zvecan, inhabited by Kosovo Serbs.

Local media report that during the raid, which started at 5 AM, two helicopters flew over the area, and tens of heavy armoured vehicles converged on the scene.

"The search, authorised by a EULEX pre-trial judge, led to the seizure of two weapons, ammunition and documentation," according to the EULEX statement issued in the afternoon, several hours after the operation ended.

Zvonko Veselinovic and his brother Zarko are wanted on nine criminal charges, including the murder of a Kosovo Albanian police officer and an attack on UN and NATO personnel.

NATO's top commander in Kosovo, German Major-General Erhard Drews, had earlier named Zvonko Veselinovic as the chief organiser of an attack in late November on NATO peacekeepers trying to remove roadblocks. Around 50 soldiers were injured during the riots on that occasion.

The Veselinovic brothers were arrested on December 20 in Serbia on suspicion that they were involved in producing and transporting weapons and explosive devices.

However, according to EULEX, Tuesday's search of the Veselinovic family home was part of "an on-going investigation related to organised crime, aggravated theft, smuggling of goods and drugs trafficking."

During the operation, a number of Doljane residents came out to protest and for more than two hours prevented the EULEX convoy from leaving the village.

Northern Kosovo, which borders Serbia, has long been prone to outbreaks of violence. The population, which is almost entirely comprised of Serbs, does not recognise Kosovo's independence or the government in Pristina.

While officially a part of Kosovo, the region has been under the de-facto control of Belgrade-funded parallel institutions, including town councils, health authorities, post offices and schools.

Roads in four Serb-run northern districts have been blocked for months. Some 16 barricades manned by local Serbs have been erected in protest against a decision by the Kosovo's government to deploy customs staff on border crossings with Serbia.

Veselinovic was well known as a "bridge watcher". These are groups of Serbs who patrol the main bridge in Mitrovica dividing the town between Serb and Albanian sectors. Local media, recently alleged that Veselinovic is funding groups that patrol anti-government barricades.

Kosovo Prosecutors have issued an international arrest warrant for the Veselinovic brothers, but Serbia has refused to extradite the two, who are currently facing weapon charges in Serbia.

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