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UNMIK Summary of Press Briefing of 14 Feb 2000

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UNMIK Spokeswoman Ms Nadia Younes
Good morning and happy Valentine's Day, ladies and gentlemen. Today I will pass the floor to Mr. Henning Philipp who will start the briefing and then I will follow.

KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Henning Philipp

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Yesterday was a day of unprecedented violence, injury and unrest in Mitrovica. At about 9 a.m. in the morning, a hand grenade exploded in a group of people just north of the Eastern Bridge in the northern part of Mitrovica. Gunshots were also heard in the area.

Seven Albanians were injured, three of them seriously, when the grenade exploded. They were rushed to the Moroccan Military Hospital for treatment.

At 11 a.m. two KFOR French soldiers were shot and injured at their guard post near the Eastern Bridge. One was shot in the arm and one in the stomach. Both were evacuated to the French Military Medical Facility. They are in stable condition.

KFOR immediately returned fire at the building where the sniper fire came from and cordoned the area. At noon, snipers turned their fire on Serbians on the street. There were no reported injuries and the people escaped under KFOR protection.

At approximately 12:30 p.m., KFOR troops exchanged fire with snipers. Two snipers were captured, both were wounded. They were taken to the KFOR Moroccan Field Hospital where one died of his wounds. The injured and the dead man are reported to be of Albanian ethnicity.

At 3:30 yesterday afternoon, the train from Kosovo Polje to Zvecan was hit by small arms fire when it reached the Mitrovica station. An UNMIK policeman was slightly injured by flying glass. The KFOR Greek medical personnel on board treated him on the scene.

The train moved back to the village of Priluzje. KFOR Greek Force Support Unit provided trucks and security and Multinational Brigade North soldiers provided extra security to move the Serb passengers by road to Zvecan.

Yesterday, 40 people have been arrested in connection with the violence during searches of several buildings. They are now in detention under KFOR guard.

The Commander of KFOR, General Dr. Klaus Reinhardt, was in Mitrovica yesterday to oversee the military operation and to be with his soldiers.

The allied military forces have taken immediate and robust action against this renewed, serious outbreak of violence. KFOR is in the process of conducting intense searches of houses and buildings in the city and will maintain a heavy presence in the streets.

The KFOR presence includes French, British, Italian, Belgian and Danish troops. They are conducting foot patrols, vehicle check-points and static guard at homes and businesses in minority neighbourhoods.

A nighttime curfew was in force last night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and will be enforced for the foreseeable future.

This morning the situation is stable. There are no shootings, no explosions, and we do hope that it will remain so.

UNMIK Spokeswoman Ms Nadia Younes

Over the weekend SRSG Bernard Kouchner consulted extensively with COMKFOR General Klaus Reinhardt regarding the situation in Mitrovica. On Friday, Dr. Kouchner went to Mitrovica in the afternoon and announced some immediate special measures that had already begun to be implemented by UNMIK and KFOR to re-enforce security in Mitrovica. Those included expanding the safety zone on either side of the Ibar River, increasing mobile and fixed checkpoints, conducting joint patrols of UNMIK Police and KFOR officers, re-enforcing monitoring and control of the administrative boundary with Serbia and re-invigorating UNMIK Regulation 1999/2 which allows international forces to remove or detain persons posing a threat to public order. UNMIK also committed to re-deploying 300 police officers to the Mitrovica area. The newly signed regulation outlawing hate speech will also be used to help Kosovo administrators to prosecute public provocations to acts of violence. Also on Friday, a zone in which no demonstrations will be allowed was established.

Last night, UNMIK and KFOR heads issued a joint statement on the situation in which Dr. Kouchner and General Reinhardt condemned these cowardly acts and stated they would not be tolerated. Those who are guilty will be brought to justice and will suffer the full force of law.

Today SRSG Kouchner is convoking a special session of the Interim Administrative Council (IAC) at 4 p.m. to discuss a larger package of measures to re-establish security and build peaceful co-existence in Mitrovica. It is expected that the IAC will issue a statement following the meeting.

The package of special measures, which will be discussed at the IAC today, will be made public at a joint press conference of UNMIK-KFOR, probably tomorrow.

In the meantime 100 additional UNMIK Police officers are being re-deployed to Mitrovica from other parts of Kosovo. They should all be in Mitrovica be the end of the week. The Police have prepared the strategy plan to strengthen the number of officers in Mitrovica with about 100 officers, as I said, from Pristina, Prizren, Gnjilane, Pec and from the Border Police. The police officers and KFOR will have joint patrols, check-stops, take part in house searches looking for weapons, will continue their investigations, and that will all contribute to re-establishment of law and order. The Regional Police Commander for Mitrovica will share premises with KFOR to ensure full coordination of security action to be undertaken.

On other police matters, there have been several house fires and grenade explosions at various locations over the weekend, including one early Saturday morning at the Miami Beach Club in Pristina. It caused structural damage but no injuries were reported.

Also on Friday night in Prizren, the body of a member of the Torbesh community was found inside an apartment, apparently killed by gunshot wounds.

I have some news for you on the power situation. The electricity situation will be difficult for the next few days, as Kosovo B's unit one ceased operations on Sunday due to tube and steam leaks. Repairs will take at least until Wednesday. Kosovo A's units 4 and 5 are together producing 190 megawatts of electricity. A priority is to get the third unit of Kosovo A up and running.

As of this morning we were importing a total of 140 megawatts of electricity, 20 from Macedonia, 40 from Albania and 80 from Serbia. An agreement with Macedonia on importing more power is pending and has not yet been signed.

The current schedule of restrictions is two hours of power on and six hours off.

The water shortages we have been experiencing are related to a problem with electricity going to the Sajkovic water treatment plant. The EU, KEK and Water Company are meeting today on improving the electricity flow to the main water stations.

The Pristina region Kosovo Police Service (KPS) selection and recruitment team is asking all posted and selected applicants for the third class of the Police School in Vucitrn to come and sign their contracts before 20 February of this year. Their training will start on 21 February at the school. There are 129 successful applicants from the Pristina region have been posted at the every police station throughout the area. Starting today, the contract must be signed at UNMIK Police Station 1, between 8 and 17 hours, i.e. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Only those applicants who sign the contract before 20 February will be able to start training on 21 February.

Questions and answers

Q: The Italian troops, apparently, responded immediately to this sniper fire, but then after 45 minutes there was heavy cannon fire in the same area, because KFOR was using all means at its disposal, which is understandable. Was the area vacated before this heavy fire started? Were there any civilian injuries?

HP: KFOR reacted with all available means, they used 20-milimetres canons and small arms fire. There were no civilian injuries.

Q: There are some reports that the snipers who shot at French troops were Serbs and the ethnic Albanians who were injured or killed were not snipers at all. Can you expand on this, how people were shot and killed?

HP: The source of fire was clearly identified. KFOR troops returned fire at that direction, but targeted only the snipers.

Q: You say that there were no civilian injuries. But how can you explain that there were many people injured on the Albanian side?

HP: There was sniper fire, and these snipers were injured. The civilians were injured as a result of grenade attack.

Q: I saw pictures of houses burning, and the killed sniper was in the Ibar River at the moment. So, a lot of people say that he wasn't really a sniper.

HP: I cannot confirm that.

Q: Was the injured sniper interrogated by KFOR or UNMIK Police? What those 40 people were arrested for? Were they involved in any violence?

HP: The people that were arrested are suspected of having been involved in violence, because some of them had weapons. They are in detention right now and are interrogated. As for the injured sniper, he is not in a condition to be questioned right now.

Q: What are the measures or special instructions given to UNMIK Police in Mitrovica by the Multinational Brigade North? The package of measures, is it something that was dictated by the new situation, or is it something that you planned before the events in Mitrovica?

NY: I don't know what kind of instructions you are talking about. All I do know is that UNMIK Police and KFOR are working extremely closely together in implementing the security measures for Mitrovica. So I don't know of any specific instructions. As for the package of measures, it is a combination of both. Some of them were dictated by the current situation, others had been planned before. They are aimed at achieving of some form of co-existence between the two communities.

Q: What is KFOR doing to reverse and prevent the ethnic cleansing, when so many Albanians were forced to abandon their homes in the northern part of Mitrovica?

HP: KFOR does its best to secure those people, to provide safety for them. Right now they are too afraid to return. Our intent is to stabilize the situation, so that they could come back as soon as possible.

Q: According to the information that I have, the killed sniper was not sniper at all. He was a journalist. Do you have any comment on this?

HP: I am not aware of that.

Q: Is it true that members of special police force and paramilitaries came to the northern part of Mitrovica from Serbia in the recent couple of days?

HP: We have no indications of that.

Q: Have you made any arrests of those responsible for murders on the last week? Are there any indications of who did it?

HP: So far we are continuing the investigations. We hope that in the course of these investigations we will find the perpetrators who are responsible for the outbreak of violence last week.

Q: Can you tell us what KFOR found in the Dolce Vita bar?

HP: Nothing. We closed the bar because a man who had attempted to loot a flat was apparently hiding there. Now the bar is open again.

Q: Do you have the number of the fatalities during these 10 days of violence? Why KFOR stated on Saturday that the situation in Mitrovica was calm and under control?

HP: As of last Friday, there was no shooting, no explosions. So, from military perspective it was under control. It was tense, of course. We had still those people who were leaving their homes in the northern part, which is, of course, not something very nice to see. As for the number of the fatalities, I need to come back to you on that, but it's close to 10 right now.

Q: Can you confirm that the weapons were sniper guns, riffles?

HP: Yes, riffles.

Q: What are the sources of information on Mitrovica? Does it come from the Multinational Brigade North, from UNMIK information officers?

NY: Today I gave the floor directly to KFOR, because KFOR is following the situation on the ground and giving us an account of what happens. UNMIK is not doing that. Of course, our Regional Administrator has kept us informed of what was happening in Mitrovica. The information is being passed on to and contemplated by Dr. Kouchner here in Pristina.

HP: In such a volatile situation as we had yesterday, it is not sometimes easy to find the exact figures and data of what is exactly happening. We can confirm only what we really know so far. And even what I say to you sometimes needs further research, I say only what I am aware of so far.

Q: Do you know who shot the two French soldiers? Have you reached some conclusions about their ethnicity?

HP: I am not in a position now to tell you exactly of what ethnicity the snipers were. We are still researching the whole cause of the incident, and I think in the course of today you will know.