NATO and KLA: Who shall prevail in the end?

Elias.Karagiannis at Elias.Karagiannis at
Thu Aug 5 11:26:53 PDT 1999

NATO holds Kosovo ``interior minister'' after threat 12:49 p.m. Aug 05, 1999 Eastern PRISTINA, Aug 5 (Reuters) - NATO troops detained Kosovo's self-styled ``interior minister'' for threatening them with a pistol and driving around in a vehicle with a blue flashing light, the KFOR peace force said on Thursday.

KFOR is the only legitimate security force in Kosovo under its interim U.N. administration. But the erstwhile guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has formed a ``provisional government'' which has tried to wield power while U.N. authorities get organised.

In a statement, KFOR said British peacekeepers patrolling Pristina on Wednesday night stopped a jeep containing Rexhep Selimi, a KLA member and interior minister in the shadowy ``provisional government,'' and two aides.

When asked to identify themselves, one aide produced an MRK (''interior ministry'') identity card and the other a KLA card.

Selimi and one aide were known to have KFOR-recognised cards issued by Kosovo's military Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) entitling them to be in KLA uniform and carry sidearms outside KLA assembly areas.

None of the men was in uniform, but Selimi had a pistol and six rounds of ammunition which were seized when the British troops decided that ``the men posed a threat to public order,'' the statement said.

``They therefore decided to search them. They found Selimi's JIC card on him so they returned his pistol and ammunition.

``(But) Selimi then loaded the pistol in front of the patrol and holding up a round said something in Albanian which a local at the scene translated as,

'This one's for you'.''

Selimi was then arrested. He was later released after consultations with British Royal Military Police. His pistol, ammunition, radio frequency scanner and JIC card were, however, confiscated.

The statement said Selimi, in riding around in a vehicle with flashing blue police lights and a radio scanner, had abused privileges granted by the JIC card. The issue would be raised at the next JIC meeting with KLA leaders.

Wednesday's incident underscored the tension between KLA hardliners and the new U.N. administration and KFOR.

KLA militants believe the U.N. usurped the guerrillas' right to rule Kosovo. The KLA launched an uprising that, with decisive help from NATO bombings, drove Serbian security forces out of Albanian-majority Kosovo after 10 years of police repression.

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