Ethnic Albanians arrested on war crimes charges

BELGRADE -- A Serbian police (MUP) operation targeting persons suspected of committing war crimes against Serbs was carried out in the south of the country on Friday.

One of the suspects is being brought in to the MUP HQ in Belgrade (Beta)
One of the suspects is being brought in to the MUP HQ in Belgrade (Beta)

B92 has learned that several persons were arrested in the southern town of Bujanovac and in the villages of Veliki Trnovac and Breznica.

Serbia’s War Crime Prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević said that the police had arrested five Albanians suspected of war crimes during conflicts in southern Serbia in 2001. However, he did not want to specify for which war crime the arrested persons were suspected of, adding that he could not give any details since the investigation was still underway.

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Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dačić said that the police arrested eight people in southern Serbia on Friday, five of whom were suspected of war crimes against civilians.

“Upon the request of the War Crimes Prosecutor's Office, the Gendarmerie carried out an action in the municipality of Bujanovac, and the villages of Veliki Trnovac and Breznica,” he told a press conference in the southern Serbian town of Vranje.

“The arrested persons are Elhami Salihi, Serif Abdiri, Nedir Sefedini and Sevdai Emurlahi, while Blerim Duraki from the village of Breznica was arrested for illegal possession of weapons,” the minister explained.

“Two persons who obstructed the action were also arrested,” he added.

One of the two is Izet Qazimi, brother of Ridvan Qazimi, a commander of the so-called Liberation Army of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa.

Dačić underlined that the operation was not aimed against ethnic Albanians but rather against war criminals.

“These arrests are not political processes, and the arrested people who are involved in politics will not have it as an alibi,” he stressed.

“Everybody is equal in the eyes of this state and their laws,” Dačić pointed out and said that an OSCE translator was among the arrested persons.

Dačić said that the so-called Liberation Army of the Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa (OVPBM, UCPMB) - an offshoot of the "Kosovo Liberation Army", KLA - was formed "n order to help Kosovo annex the southern Serbian municipalities".

He said that until the OVBPM was formed, 29 armed attacks on police and citizens were performed, killing three police officers and two citizens and wounding seven policemen, while one citizen was kidnapped and had never been found.

The minister said that the OVBPM became operational on January 26, 2000 and that it had around 3,000 members.

“From January 26, 2000 until May 31, 2001, during the armed conflicts with the Serbian security forces, 720 armed attacks were performed, 592 on police, 73 on the Yugoslav Army and at least 55 armed attacks on civilians,” he pointed out.

According to Dačić, 18 police officers were killed and 68 were wounded in the attacks and that four policemen were kidnapped and that three of them were killed in illegal prisons.

“In that period of time eight civilians were killed and 16 were wounded, while 43 were kidnapped. Serb, Roma and Albanian civilians and security forces members were abused, tortured and killed in illegal jails, basements and ancillary buildings in at least three locations in the villages of Veliki Trnovac and Breznica in the Bujanovac municipality,” he said.

The minister added that the operation would continue.

The operation was carried out by the Serbian Gendarmerie officers. Tanjug reported that one Gendarmerie officer was attacked during the operation.

Bujanovac Mayor Shaip Kamberi confirmed the arrests on Friday morning.

The suspects have in the meantime been brought in to the MUP HQ in Belgrade.