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news 16 Aug 12

Kosovo Police Raid Serb Enclave in South

Kosovo Special Police raided Serbia's PTT branch in Shterpce, southern Kosovo, in search of illicit weapons, but found nothing.

Fatmir Aliu BIRN Pristina / Shterpce

Kosovo Special Police on Wednesday raided the premises of Serbia’s Post and Telecommunications in Shterpce in southern Kosovo in search of weapons and ammunition, but returned empty handed.

Captain Baki Kelani, spokesperson of the force, said the operation was approved by the courts, based on information that illicit weapons were hidden in the village of Jazhince, some 4 kilometres away from Shterpce.

“No one was arrested or detained during the police action, which found nothing suspicious,” the spokesperson told BIRN on Wednesday.

The small municipality of Shterpce and its surroundings are a Serb-majority area.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade has not recognized the new state and continues to finance Serb-run institutions in parts of Kosovo where Serbs comprise the majority of the population.

The government has pledged to halt such structures, which it considers illegal, and has ordered a number of police operations to back up its actions.

Kosovo’s own Post and Telecom office in Jazhince are used by Serbia’s Post and Telecom company, PTT, which offers services to Kosovo Serbs living in Shterpce.

Local Kosovo Serb media said the Kosovo police broke a lock on the door by force but removed nothing from the PTT offices.

Kosovo Police denied using force to open the premises and said that “two employees of Serb nationality were present all the time during the search operation.”

Shterpce’s Serbian Mayor, Zvonko Mihajlovic, told the media that the police operation was meant to “scare the Kosovo Serb population” and to shut down Serbia’s landline network.

Mihajlovic, who was elected in Serbia’s extended elections to Kosovo, which the authorities in Pristina consider invalid, said locals will not accept any imposed solution on the issue of telecommunications.

Several weeks ago, Kosovo Police also conducted an operation against a bank branch certified in Serbia, not in Kosovo, in Shterpce.

Days after, police raided also a Serbian bank in the Serb-run municipality of Gracanica, confiscating money, documents and computers.

Two years ago, a wider operation against Serbia’s telecommunication network in Kosovo was undertaken.

Serbia’s mobile and landline telephone connections in several locations in central and eastern Kosovo were interrupted after Kosovo’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, ART, severed the connections between 10 telephone antennae.

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