Terrorist group "mobilizing" over controversial memorial

PREŠEVO -- An ethnic Albanian terrorist group from Kosovo has announced it was "conducting an accelerated mobilization" of its members.

A group of ANA members, seen in 2007 (file)
A group of ANA members, seen in 2007 (file)

The Albanian National Army (ANA) said this came "because of the Serb threats to separate a part of Kosovo, and threats to remove by force the monument in Preševo".

The memorial in this southern town was built to honor the members of the now disbanded, so-called Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa, and Bujanovac (UCPMB), who were killed as they clashed with Serbian security forces in 2000 and 2001.

Albanian language media in Priština carried the statement issued by ANA, and Belgrade-based daily Danas called on these sources in its report.

According to the article, the group accused Serbia's "fascistoid leadership" for "the aggravated situation in northern Kosovo and southern Serbia".

The statement was signed by "Colonel Kacaku" and "a general" - described as "the commander of the special unit Cobra".

Ethnic Albanian leaders in southern Serbia did not wish to speak for the daily and confirm this information, while the artcile said that "the citizens were tense" because of the threats.

ANA is one of the offshoots of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which was disbanded after the 1999 war over Kosovo. Its first appearance in public was in September of the same year, when the group demanded that "all Slavic soldiers be removed from the ranks of KFOR troops".

Later, they took to taking responsibility for bombing attacks in Macedonia and southern Serbia, and were designated a terrorist organization by the UN mission in Kosovo in 2003 after they unsuccessfully attempted to plant a bomb on the railroad near the town of Zvečan.

Speaking about the situation regarding the memorial, Skedner Destani, leader of the Democratic Union of the Valley, said that they were "ready for dialogue with all representatives of the Serbian government":

"I expect a compromise solution to be reached even before January 17, when a new round of the Belgrade-Priština dialogue is to be held in Brussels".

Destani's party is among the Albanian parties that supported a platform of municipal councilors from the Preševo region who called for "internationalization of the issue of the position of ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia".

According to the daily - by saying that "the state of Serbia was facing the test of solving the problem with its citizens", he "indirectly admitted" that the councilors' conclusions were left "without an adequate reaction and support from ambassadors of the U.S., Britain, the EU, and OSCE".

"We consider Ivica Dačić to also be the prime minister of Albanians who live in southern Serbia and for that reason we wish to solve the issue of the memorial with him, but also other problems that we have been facing in this region for more than ten years, and they include militarization, bad economic situation and endangering of human rights," said Destani, and added:

"A compromise is necessary, but whether it will happen is up to the authorities in Belgrade above all, especially after Defense Minister Aleksandar Vučić said that Serbia did not wish to threaten anyone and that all controversial issues would be resolved peacefully. However, it is not a peaceful way if the monument for the UCPMB members were to be removed by force, assisted by state security forces."

Another ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Party (DP) led by Nagip Arifi, told the newspaper that "new solutions are expected through a dialogue", and that the DP's position remains in favor of "a peaceful coexistence in this area".