KLA claims responsibility for Priština blast

PRIŠTINA -- Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) says it blew up three UN vehicles in Priština last night.

The scene of the explosion in Priština (FoNet)
The scene of the explosion in Priština (FoNet)

The blast caused no injuries but raised tensions amid ongoing negotiations on Kosovo's future.

Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) distributed a statement to the media by e-mail claiming to have set up the explosion. Kosovo Police Service is yet to determine the authenticity of the statement.

Kosovo Liberation Army , now a disbanded force that fought against Serb forces during the 1998-1999 conflict, said it had regrouped in order to "avenge the death of two protesters" during a recent demonstration in Priština, adding it would avenge "any future injustice" against its people.

Last night’s explosion was one of the most serious attacks on the UN mission in the province since March 2004 riots.

NATO-led peacekeepers sealed the blast area in downtown Priština, and were investigating, police spokesman Veton Elshani said.

The blast came 10 days after two people were killed in clashes between police and ethnic Albanian protesters who were objecting to a UN proposal for Kosovo's final status.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku, who visited the blast site late Monday, condemned the attack as "an act of those opposing the process of Kosovo's independence."

"Such criminal acts are absolutely unacceptable for Kosovo's people and its institutions," said Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu, demanding that those behind the blast be caught.

Self-Determination to stage fresh protests

Meanwhile, the radically pro-independence Kosovo Albanian movement Self-Determination (Vetevendosja), which in the past organized violent protests that ended in fatalities, on Tuesday announced more demonstrations for early March.

Two demonstrators were killed and dozens injured when police fired rubber bullets into a crowd of several thousand Self- determination supporters.

The next protest was scheduled for March 3, coinciding with the start of the penultimate round of talks between Belgrade and Priština on the future status of Kosovo.

Unlike mainstream Kosovo Albanian leaders, movement Self-Determination rejects the negotiations and wants independence proclaimed immediately. Its leader Albin Kurti was arrested and ordered to serve a 30-day detention following the February 10 violence.

Self-Determination has a record of violent protests which included stone and paint-throwing at UN and Kosovo government buildings.

The protests on March 3 would be “peaceful,” aimed at those responsible for the death of the two demonstrators, Kurti's deputy, Glauk Konjufca, said.

In the wake of the demonstrations and the crackdown, the international police commissioner in Kosovo, Stephen Curtis, was forced to resign by UN Mission in Kosovo chief Joachim Ruecker.

Kosovo's Interior Minister Fatmir Rexhepi and several other officials also stepped down following the brutal crackdown. Kosovo has international and local police forces.

Konjufca rejected any Self-Determination link to a bomb in central Priština which damaged several UN vehicles late Monday night.

“We had nothing to do with it ... We denounce violence that jeopardizes public safety,” he said.

The UCK was formally disbanded following the war in Kosovo in 1999 and the arrival of the UN administration and a NATO-led peacekeeping mission.

UN appoints new interim Kosovo police chief

The United Nations appointed yesterday a new interim international police chief in Kosovo, while a search for a permanent replacement to his sacked predecessor continued.

UNMIK Deputy commissioner Trygve Kalleberg took up the post from Germany’s Uwe Marquardt. Marquardt had replaced Stephen Curtis after he was dismissed from the post last week.

Curtis was asked to step down from office after an autopsy showed two ethnic Albanians died of head wounds from rubber bullets fired by international police during a protest in Priština on February 10.

UN mission in Kosovo said Kallenberg would stay in office until a police commissioner was formally appointed, in several months time.