Monday, March 18, 2013

Nine years since March pogrom against Serbs in KiM

BELGRADE - Serbia and Serbian diaspora today mark the ninth anniversary of pogrom against Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija (KiM), a crime whose organizers from Albanian political structures and their paramilitary formation, so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), still have not been named or punished.

This was the second major pogrom carried out by ethnic Albanian separatists in peacetime since after NATO's bombing, when the province became an international protectorate administered by the United Nations (UN). In June 1999, more than 250,000 Serbs, Roma people and other non-Albanians were expelled from the territory in the presence of international forces.

 In the wave of ethnic Albanian violence which broke out on March 17, 2004, a total of ten Serbs were killed and two went missing, while 11 Albanians dies in clashes with members of international forces. In only three days, 954 people were injured, including 143 Serbs and dozens of members of international forces who clashed with the Albanians in an attempt to protect the Serbs and their property. The attack left 72 UN vehicles damaged. 

 A total of 4,012 Serbs were expelled, six towns and nine villages were ethnically cleansed, and 935 Serb houses and 10 community facilities - schools, health centers, and post offices - were destroyed, burnt down or heavily damaged. 

 The religious and architectural heritage of the Serb people was a special target for ethnic Albanians, which is why 35 churches and monasteries were destroyed or burnt down, including 18 cultural monuments. Devic Monastery near Srbica and the dormitories of the Monastery of the Holy Archangels near Prizren were flattened; Our Lady of Ljevis Cathedral from the 12th century and the Church of St George from the 16th century were burned down, while on the vault of the latter the ethnic Albanians wrote: Death for Serbs.

 The Serb Orthodox Theological School in Prizren was destroyed, as well as the Seat of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Serb cemeteries were desecrated, including the marble tomb of St. Joanikije of Devic in Devic Monastery and the one of Emperor Dusan in the Monastery of the Holy Archangels. More than 10,000 valuable frescoes, icons, chalices, vestments and other church relics disappeared or were damaged, together with registries of baptisms, marriages and deaths which testified to a centuries-long Serb presence in the province. 

 The pogrom was triggered by a campaign conducted by Albanian media according to which Kosovo Serbs and their dogs chased six Albanian boys from the village of Cabar near Zubin Potok across the Ibar River, and three of them died in the incident. 

 The investigation of the UNMIK police established that the Albanian charges were false and spokesman of the international police Neridz Sing stated that after the incident, the surviving boys were fiercely pressured by Albanian reporters and politicians into pressing accusations against Serbs from the nearby village.

 Albanian extremists first staged protests in southern Kosovska Mitrovica, and at dusk they launched an armed attack on Serbs in the northern part of the city, where KFOR soldiers had to intervene. In a cloud of tear gas and smoke, an Albanian sniper was shooting from a skyscraper and, before the special teams of international forces managed to liquidate him, the first victims lost their lives - Borivoje Spasojevic (53) and Jana Tucev (36), while a KFOR soldier was severely wounded. Violence and attacks spread to the south, to the village of Caglavica and other dwellings in the Pristina area, and Serb villages and cities all around the province, such as Lipljan, Gnjilane, Urosevac, Djakovica and Prizren, were targeted by the violent outburst. 

 The clashes continued the next day, on March 18, when Serbs were forced to abandon Kosovo Polje, Obilic, Plemetina near Vucitrn, Svinjare near Kosovska Mitrovica, while all 28 houses of Serb returnees and the village hall were set on fire in Bijelo Polje near Pec. Small groups of Serbs sought shelter in KFOR bases, while others took refuge in safer Serb enclaves. A very small number of them decided to return and around 250 Serbs fled to central Serbia. 

Protests broke out in several cities, mosques were set on fire in Nis and Belgrade and 17 civilians and police officers were injured in the unrests in the Serbian capital. Representatives of the international community stated that ethnically motivated violence against Serbs in KiM was well-prepared and implemented but it turned out that over 20.000 members of international forces were not ready, or were not willing to prevent it. 

 According to the data of the Serbian intelligence sources, Ramus Haradinaj, one of the commanders of the terrorist KLA, whom the ICTY acquitted of all charges for crimes against Serbs, pulled the strings of the March pogrom. Samedin Dzezairi, also known as Commander Hodza, had the key role in attacks on the Serbs in Prizren, Urosevac and Orahovac.

 He was an Islamic terrorist who arrived in KiM to build a branch of the "Party of Allah" - Hezbollah. After the pogrom of Serbs, the authorities arrested 270 Albanians, and 143 individuals were sentenced, most of them to financial fines while 67 individuals were sent to prison. However, the main actors from political structures and the former KLA are not among them. Despite promises of swift return, most of the expelled Serbs still live in collective centers, container settlements or in the homes of other people as "internally displaced people."

 The terror of Albanian separatist was formally condemned by the UN Security Council and European officials, while the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemned it through a resolution adopted on April 29. However, despite the atrocities and ethnic cleansing, the ethnic Albanians did not suffer any political sanctions. On the contrary, with the support of the leading western countries, in February 2008 they unilaterally declared Kosovo an independent state, which the Serbian authorities have not recognized.
 Photo Tanjug, BOKI

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