Albanians posed as Serbs to stoke ethnic fires in Kosovo
By Neil Barnett in Pristina
The murder of a United Nations policeman in Kosovo last week was committed by ethnic Albanians who posed as Serbs in an effort to cast their bitter rivals as villains, the Telegraph has learned.
The UN policeman, from Ghana, and a local Albanian police officer were killed when their car was sprayed with bullets near the town of Podujevo, the centre of Albanian resistance against the Belgrade government.
Kosovo, in which Serbs make up only about 10 per cent of the population, is nominally part of Serbia and Montenegro but has been administered by the local UN mission since the war in 1999.
The ambush has heightened fears that the mob violence against Serbs which recently broke out in the disputed enclave will usher in a new campaign of attacks against Nato Kosovo Force (Kfor) troops and the UN mission by Albanian extremists impatient for Kosovo's independence.
The UN car was hit after a man flagged it down at the roadside. As the gunmen opened fire with Kalashnikovs, they were heard speaking Serbian. According to a senior security official, however, when one gunman was shot by a survivor, he instinctively screamed in Albanian: "I've been hit."
Afterwards the gunmen were forced to hijack a passing Mercedes when their getaway car failed to start. Security officials said that police officers gave chase for several miles, exchanging fire with gang members, but failed to capture them.
Soon after, however, Kfor troops raided a local Albanian-owned farm where they found two Kalashnikovs and a corpse with gunshot wounds, believed to be that of the gunman hit in the attack. Four people were arrested.
During the riots a fortnight ago in the towns of Mitrovica and Pristina - the first serious unrest for five years - 28 people died and 500 houses were destroyed, as well as 42 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries.
Major Tim Dunne, a Kfor spokesman, said that there was evidence that the mob violence had been carefully orchestrated. "We stopped numerous buses carrying men aged 18 to 40 from going to Mitrovica," he said. The troops believed that the men were being bussed in to take part in the unrest.
The violence flared when three Albanian children drowned after allegedly being chased into a river by Serbs. Unrest quickly spread and, according to one UN official, the "subsequent disturbances all over Kosovo, and their prolonged nature, point to widespread orchestration".
Doubts have also been cast over how the children came to drown as suspicions grew that the blame had been wrongly placed on Serbs. Allegations that they were involved were made by a fourth child who survived, yet during the violence a spokesman for the UN mission, Derek Chapple, said that police had no conclusive evidence. Last Wednesday, Mr Chapple was "moved to other duties" on the orders of senior UN mission officials, who are believed to think he had been too frank.
Last week, after mainly British reinforcements arrived, the streets of Kosovo were largely calm. With more than 3,800 Serbs still displaced, however, tensions remained. Major James Daniel, second in command of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, said that his troops had been "well received" by both communities.