Timber thieves in Kosovo go to woods armed

A representative of Serbia's public forest management says members of EULEX and KPS came under attack when they tried to prevent illegal felling of trees.

Source: Tanjug

Mile Vukojević, of the Srbija Šume-affiliated Ibar-Leposavić company, stressed that massive timber theft was one of the most serious problems they were faced with in this area of northern Kosovo.

The incident happened on Tuesday in the village of Borčani, in the Leposavić municipality.

Vukojević explained that timber theft was "pronounced toward (ethnic) Albanian villages", located close to the Podujevo municipality.

"The woods are destroyed and damages worth millions are incurred," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Vukojević also explained that the Forestry Administration does not control most of the territory in question for security reasons, and added that timber stolen there was later transported toward central parts of Kosovo.

"In this way, somebody is earning millions while we suffer great losses. We are trying to, via relevant institutions, to prevent the illegal felling," he stated, and added:.

"We tried on several occasions to go to the field and make a record of, and prevent the illegal felling of trees, while the incident that occurred yesterday was the result of our attempt to prevent that."

The company also addressed the KPS and EULEX in written form, requesting assistance in the region around Mt. Šatorica and in the direction of Podujevo:

"We knew this was a risky terrain and that people who were stealing timber were armed. During yesterday's incident, shots were fired toward the KPS and EULEX, but also toward our service."

There were no casualties when the incident took place on Tuesday in the area of Mt. Šatorica, located between the municipalities of Kuršumlija, Podujevo, and Leposavić. The persons who attacked the officers remain unknown.

The KPS said that the shooters were timber thieves. A tractor was seized during the incident, along with a semi-automatic rifle with 30 bullets.

Ibar-Leposavić company worker Dragan Antić was present at the scene during the incident. He on Wednesday told reporters that on Tuesday they found ethnic Albanians from Podujevo in the woods, stealing timber:

"When they spotted the police they managed to escape. Their tractor was confiscated, along with chainsaws and even weapons. They managed to move away some of the tractors because they learned that we, and the police were coming."

He also explained that many tractor trailers loaded with felled trees were left behind, while shots were fired after the police seized one tractor.

"The police responded in kind," said Andrić, and added that both the forestry company workers and members of the police were exposed to "great danger" yesterday.

The property in state ownership of the Republic of Serbia in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija amounts to 24,500 hectares of forests, and arable and building land.

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