Sunday, April 17, 2005

Blast in Kosovo Capital wounds three

Surroi is the leader of Political Party ORA[TIME]

PRISTINA, Kosovo[Kosova] - An explosion late on Sunday in the Kosovo capital Pristina injured three people and damaged the offices of an opposition political party, police and witnesses said.

The blast occurred shortly after 10 p.m. (2000 GMT) outside the offices of ORA, a small opposition party led by prominent Kosovo Albanian publisher Veton Surroi.

Surroi and other opposition figures have been threatened in recent days by a shadowy group calling itself The Defense of the Motherland. The groups is believed to be loosely affiliated with the largest party in Kosovo, the Democratic League of Kosovo, lead by the President of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova. The group has warned that it will liquate all those who oppose the DLK and Mr. Rugova. The DLK denies any knowledge of the group. Opposition has called on DLK to denounce what they call “The Bandits”. Law enforcement agencies in Kosovo have said that they are not aware of the existence of the group.

A spokesman for the Kosovo Police Service said three children living on the floor above the offices suffered minor injuries.

"They were taken to hospital but have since been released," Refki Morina told Reuters. He said the explosion had caused significant damage to the building.

The street was cordoned off and members of the NATO-led peace force stationed in the province were on the scene.

The explosion is the latest in a series of violent incidents to hit the U.N.-run province in recent months. They include a roadside bomb blast in March targeting President Ibrahim Rugova. He escaped unhurt.

Kosovo is gearing up for negotiations later this year on whether it becomes independent -- as the 90 percent Albanian majority demands -- or remains formally part of Serbia.

The United Nations, which has run the province of 2 million people since the 1998-99 guerrilla war, says extremists could try to destabilise Kosovo as the talks near.

Kosovo's political scene has become increasingly frayed since the resignation of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj to face war crimes charges at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

Diplomats say his decision on March 7 to surrender to The Hague left a gaping hole in Kosovo's governing coalition. The weeks since have been filled with accusations of corruption and criminality between opposition and ruling parties.

Haradinaj returned briefly to Kosovo on Sunday after the tribunal granted him temporary release to attend the funeral of his brother, Enver, who was shot on Friday in what a NATO source was probably a clan dispute.

A 78-day NATO bombing campaign in 1999 drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against Albanian civilians in fighting the separatist rebels.
Reuters & RTK, Kosovapress

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