European Western Balkans

North Kosovo crisis: Kosovo claims Serb leader was among attackers, Serbian Defence Minister accuses KFOR of passivity,

Found weapons in Banjska; Photo: X, @albinkurti

On the third day since the outbreak of the conflict in Banjska, the operation of the Kosovo Police aimed at conducting searches, terrain checks, and searching for weapons and other equipment has concluded. After three days, Kosovo Police have unblocked the road leading to the village Banjska.

Deputy Director of Kosovo’s police Veton Elshani mentioned that even though the operation has ended, the decision on “what’s next” will only be made tomorrow after 9:00 AM. He explained that they will decide whether to allow unrestricted movement, including entry and exit from the village of Banjska, for everyone and not just the residents. This decision will be made by Pristina.

Kosovo Police, including special units, will continue to stay in the village tonight. As part of the operation, which has now concluded, the police confiscated a significant amount of weapons, ammunition, and other equipment, including more than 20 vehicles, on Sunday and the following day.

Early Sunday morning in the village of Banjska in the municipality of Zvečan, a sergeant of the Kosovo Police was killed in an ambush, and two police officers were wounded.

In the meantime, the main news has shifted to the clashes between armed and masked attackers and the Kosovo Police, which lasted until the evening hours. According to Kosovo Police reports, on Sunday, the bodies of at least three alleged attackers were killed or found, and another two were arrested, one of whom was wounded.

Additionally, on the same day, four more individuals were arrested who are believed to be associated with this group. Last night, two more individuals were apprehended at a hotel in the village of Banjska, after weapons believed to be linked to this group were discovered.

Vice-President of Serb list among attackers?

The head of the Kosovo Ministry of Internal Affairs, Xhelal Svecla, published a video on Tuesday, reportedly showing Milan Radojičić, Vice-President of Serb List (SL) in camouflage uniform and heavily armed. In the video, a group of uniformed persons, ten of them, can be seen in front of the lower guesthouse of the Banjska monastery.

„The person in the videos below is Milan Radoičić, the vice president of Srpska Lista, who was also blacklisted by the US and the United Kingdom. The head criminal Radoicic was the leader of this terrorist group and the attack in which policeman Afrim Bunjaku was killed. This is another proof of his terrorist activity against the Republic of Kosovo. The vice-president of SL is the leader of a terrorist attack and a group of terrorists,“ Svecla wrote, repeating the allegations from yesterday.

He added „the terrorist road map is being cleared up day by day.“

Although Svecla made allegations about the alleged presence of Radojičić as part of this group at a press conference yesterday, when a large amount of weapons and vehicles were shown in Banjska, he published this video only after Srpska Lista announced a three-day mourning period in Kosovo Serb communities due to the death of three Serbs who are designated as attackers. This minister emphasized that “the declaration of a day of mourning by SL and the state of Serbia“ proves that they are behind this.

The Serbian List has not yet responded to Pristina’s accusations that their vice president was involved in the operation in the vicinity of Banjska. In a statement, they expressed their condolences to the families of the victims and declared a three-day mourning period in the municipalities with a majority Serbian population.

After President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić’s address on Sunday evening, authorities in Serbia did not provide any information regarding what happened in Banjska on Sunday. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić reiterated, as did the President of Serbia, that Albin Kurti is solely responsible for everything that occurred, adding that the video allegedly showing Milan Radojičić is a fabrication by Pristina.

“Here, there is an attempt to prove that Milan Radojičić or Zvonko Veselinović were the ones behind these actions. They would most prefer to find Mojsilović (Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces) because they need a connection to Belgrade,” Dačić said.

Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vučević accused KFOR of allowing “Albanian police to kill Serbs”.

“KFOR has a base near there and could have reacted. They seem to have stood aside and allowed the well-deployed Albanian police to continue hunting Serbs in the Banjska area. We expect KFOR to take on a more active role, not be an observer on the hill watching Albanian police killing Serbs,” the minister said.

The Serbian government met in extraordinary session on Tuesday to declare September 27 a day of mourning over what a press release called tragic events in Kosovo.

KFOR: Kosovo Police reacted in accordance with law enforcement prerogatives

KFOR said on Tuesday that the Kosovo Police in Banjska intervened in accordance with its law enforcement prerogatives. “KFOR troops were present in the area. They closely monitored the situation and stood ready to respond, if required,” KFOR said in a press release.

It added that the Kosovo Police, EULEX and KFOR acted in close coordination.

“The Commander of KFOR remains in regular contact with all stakeholders, including EULEX, the representatives of the Institutions in Kosovo and of the Kosovo security organizations, and the Chief of Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces,” said the press release.

It said that, through KFOR, NATO will always take all necessary actions to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo, “impartially and in accordance with our mandate based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999.”

“KFOR will also continue to provide the security framework necessary for the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina to move forward. The EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is the only way to resolve outstanding issues and to reach a lasting solution that respects the rights of all communities,” said KFOR.

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