Kosovo: Appearance of paramilitary groups fazes province's leaders

Pristina 4 Oct. (AKI) – Kosovo political leaders on Thursday expressed a concern over the alleged appearance of paramilitary groups in Serbia’s breakaway province. Most of its overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian majority want independence.

Kosovo television late on Wednesday showed a masked armed group in black uniforms patrolling a highway and stopping automobiles.

A masked man told the television they were members of the Albanian National Army (ANA), which the United Nations administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) has classified a terrorist organisation.

The main said they had confidence in the international forces stationed in Kosovo since the province was put under UN control in 1999, but nevertheless wanted to make sure that Serbian forces, which were pushed out of the province by NATO bombings, don’t return to Kosovo.

Commenting on the television report, Kosovo prime minister Agim Ceku, an ethnic Albanian, said it was a bad message to send the international community about Kosovo.

“Kosovo will have its own defence forces and will defend itself at an institutional level,” he said.

President Fatmir Seidiu echoed Ceku’s words, saying the people should have confidence in the legal structures and there was no need for paramilitary groups to defend Kosovo.

Bertrand Boneau, a spokesman for the international forces in Kosovo (KFOR) said he knew nothing about paramilitary groups there, except what he saw on television. But he added that KFOR would deal decisively with any paramilitary groups in the province.

Kosovo police spokesman Veton Elsani said the police was investigating the television report, which was allegedly filmed near the administrative border with Serbia.

He said police have had encounters with armed groups before, but they were underground figures, he explained.

“If these are organised military groups then they are illegal formations and they will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” he said.

The UN sponsored talks on the future status of Kosovo have produced no results after more than a year of futile negotiations and ethnic Albanians have threatened to declare independence unilaterally if a compromise solution isn't found by the end of the year.

Serbian leaders oppose Kosovo's independence, but have repeatedly said they would not try to retake it by military force.



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