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news 20 Apr 12

Kosovo Probes Claims of Armed Albanians Patrolling North

Mitrovica’s Chief Prosecutor is waiting for Kosovo Police to uncover evidence that armed Kosovo Albanians groups are present in the north after TV footage appeared to show militants on patrol.

Fatmir Aliu

Kosovo Police say they are investigation allegations that armed Kosovo Albanian groups are present in the northern Serb-run part of Kosovo, and prosecutors say they will act if they find any evidence, Mitrovica’s Chief Prosecutor told Balkan Insight on Friday.

Shyqri Syla says the prosecution office is in contact with the Kosovo Police, who are working on the allegations.

“Police are still investigating the case... so we haven’t officially initiated anything,” he told Balkan Insight.

An Albanian-based television, Top Channel, recently showed a group of armed men with AK-47 rifles and other weapons patrolling somewhere in northern Kosovo a few days ago, allegedly around the municipality of Leposavic. Kosovo Police are investigating the footage.

NATO’s Kosovo force, KFOR, said it has no mandate to investigate the issue as it is a police matter.

Earlier the week, a phantom organization calling itself “The Army for Liberation of Occupied Albanian Territories” took responsibility for an attack on a Serb vehicle that was sprayed with bullets in the village of Cabra, which mostly inhabited by Kosovo Albanians, north of Mitrovica. No one was injured.

KFOR spokesperson Uwe Nowitzki told BIRN that KFOR troops cannot do the police's job for them.

“That is not a question for KFOR, but for the police and [The EU rule of law mission] EULEX, since they deal with such issues. KFOR is here to ensure a safe and secure environment,” Nowitcki said. EULEX hasn’t commented on either case.

Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, recently urged KFOR to disarm Kosovo Albanian militants in the north, saying their extremism could lead to violence.

“The appearance of armed groups in the north of the province [of Kosovo] is a result of Pristina’s aspirations, through violence and unilateral actions, to put the north of Kosovo under its control,” Bogdanovic said.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since been recognised by 88 countries worldwide, as well as by 22 of the 27 EU member states and the US.

But Serbia still claims Kosovo as its own territory and its 2006 constitution defines Kosovo as an autonomous province.

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

While officially a part of Kosovo, the region is under the de-facto control of so-called parallel institutions funded by Belgrade.

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