Ethnic Albanian leaders react to attack

PREŠEVO -- Ethnic Albanian party leaders in the south of the country on Tuesday condemned an incident when a bomb exploded in Preševo.

Two people were hurt overnight in that town in the region close to the administrative line with Kosovo.

The leaders say that the frequency of incidents – this one came less than a week after two MUP Gendarmes were wounded in an attack on their vehicle near Bujanovac – shows that "someone is very bothered by the present quiet" in Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa municipalities and that the "problems faced by Albanians in this region that have been accumulating must be solved politically".

The sole ethnic Albanian MP in Serbia's parliament and Party for Democratic Action (PDD) president, Riza Halimi, condemned the incident and reminded that this was "neither the first nor the only explosion" in Preševo and its surroundings.

He mentioned last week's attack on a Gendarmerie vehicle to conclude that "clearly, problems are piling up".

"Instead of solving these accumulated problems of Albanians politically, and within the system of the state government, we have incidents," Halimi was quoted as saying.

Asked whether he can issue an appeal for calm in the south – considering his role as leader of one of the more influential local parties, and also as MP – he said that he had been doing that "incessantly since 2005, but that the objective guilt for the state of affairs such as it is now is of the authorities of Serbia".

Halimi continued to say that "parts of the top government and [Local Administration] Minister Milan Marković, who is also chairman of the Coordinating Body for the south, "supported radical Albanian parties" after the fall of the municipal government in Preševo.

Halimi's PDD was part of that municipal government.

"The authorities and Marković supported those who hold radical positions, and rejected the PDD, a party that participates in [parliamentary] elections," said he.

Halimi also noted that the incidents in the south have been happening in a series, despite Gendarmerie's large presence, and said that, "judging by their numbers", what is happening is in fact an "unofficial imposition of the state of emergency on the municipalities in southern Serbia with an Albanian majority".

Halimi also believes that the current situation can be solved in an "essential political process that should start right away".

Meanwhile, Preševo local assembly chairman and leader of the Democratic Union of the Valley Skender Destani reacted by saying it is "more than obvious that the calm in the south of Serbia does not suit someone".

"I cannot claim who that is, whether it's Serbs or Albanians, but the fact is, this is how it is," he told reporters.

Destani said he understood that the blast last night in Preševo was powerful, and noted it was "extremely interesting" that someone "dared to plant the device at the entrance to the building housing police and Gendarmerie families".

"Obviously, we're talking about a professional," concluded Destani, and added that the force of the blast was "felt 10 kilometers from Preševo".