Balkanalysis.com

Kosovo

Capital Prishtina
Time Zone CET (GMT+1)
Country Code 377 (Monaco); 381 (Serbia)
Mobile Codes 44
ccTLD (TBD)
Currency Euro
Land Area 10,908 sq km
Population 1.8 million
Language Albanian, Serbian, Turkish
Major Religions Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism

Book Review of Catholic Kosovo: a Visitor’s Guide

Catholic Kosovo: A Visitor’s Guide to Her People, Churches, Historical Sites, and Her 1,900 Year Journey

Available in paperback format or in e-book format).
By Marilyn Kott

Reviewed by Chris Deliso

This very useful and illustrated book, published in November 2015, represents the most comprehensive guide (in English, at least) on all historical and modern sites associated with the Catholic Church in Kosovo. As such, it should prove a very handy asset both for those wishing to visit tourist attractions in Kosovo, or learn more about the historic and socio-religious aspects of life there.

Catholic Kosovo is divided into 17 chapters and four appendices. Most of the chapters are devoted to individual churches/Catholic sites in areas throughout Kosovo. The book includes an eclectic selection of factual descriptions and logistical data, bits of personal experience, historical episodes and interviews, including with Kosovo Bishop Dodë Gjergji.

The book starts with an overview of Kosovo’s Catholic sites, and offers handy tips on attending Mass there. An overview of the history of Catholicism in Kosovo is given, but this is enhanced further in the remainder of the book and visits to specific sites. While not every existing church is visited, an appendix provides details of 24 additional ones. Other appendices discuss historical Catholic personalities associated with Kosovo and provide helpful linguistic tips.

The churches and other Catholic-related sites discussed are treated more or less geographically. Pristina sites are discussed first, followed by those of Janjevo and Ferizaj. The southeast route along the northern edges of the Skopska Crna Gorna, is also covered, including Viti, Stublla and the important pilgrimage site of Letnica.

The remainder of the book picks up in the southwest, at the Catholic sites of Prizren and then up to Gjakova, Peja and Klina, before concluding with the sites at Kravasaria and Mitrovica to the northeast. The in-depth discussion of the churches and their histories are complemented by important facts like feast days and patron saints.

The helpful logistical information provided includes maps, directions, Mass schedules, church contact information and online resources.

One of the unique aspects of this book is its collective production process and ultimate beneficiaries. The author and her husband, a former US defense attaché in Kosovo, did not immediately plan to write the book when arriving in 2012. But as practicing Catholics, they quickly found like-minded local and international Catholics who introduced them to local practices and sites, and were thus able to compile a lot of experience and data into something useful for future visitors.

Kott emphasizes that the book was indeed a team effort and developed over time. In her acknowledgements section, the author thanks Msgr. Dodë Gjergji, who provided “access to essential records and photographs,” as well as to several individuals and NGO members who helped with research, translation and writing- people who, in the author’s words, “provided material for this book that only people who live and worship in Kosovo can.” She notes that income from book sales will go to the NGO AYA Pjetër Bogdani, Caritas Kosovo, and the Bishop of Kosovo’s building fund.

Italy and Kosovo Intensify Actions against another ISIS-linked Group

By Matteo Albertini

Balkanalysis.com editor’s note: the present article follows the developments that have occurred since the 12 November arrests of ISIS-linked suspects across Europe, and led by Italy. These events have been documented already in our analyses by Elisa Sguaitamatti on 18 November and by Chris Deliso and Matteo Albertini on 23 November. The current developments indicate the continued manifestation of jihadist activity in the Balkans we have predicted over the past 13 years- while most media was ignoring or discrediting the possibility of a security problem with which Europe is unfortunately now grappling.

Four Kosovo citizens have been arrested by the Italian Police after the so-called “Van Damme” investigation that sought to end the activities of an organization allegedly involved in jihadist propaganda in Italy and abroad.

According to the inquiry, the group had “direct links with Syrian jihadist networks, and worked under the guidance of the notorious kosovar terrorist Lavdrim Muhaxheri,” according to the Brescia Procura’s statement at a 30 November press conference.

A Focus on Social Media and Extremism

The investigation began in 2014, after the discovery on Facebook of a group titled “With you or without you the Caliphate has returned.” Its members were assumed to be mostly in Syria. According to Giovanni De Stavola of DIGOS, the Italian police’s division for general investigations and special operations, “the group was directing its Daesh propaganda towards people coming from the Balkan region and residing in Italy. The four arrested were member of the group and have documented contacts with jihadist networks in the Balkans guided by Lavdrim Muhaxheri,” who has become the main point of reference for the foreign fighters coming from this geographic area. “We intervened in a phase of propaganda before problems could appear on the territory“ concluded De Stavola.

How the Jihadists Named the Police Investigation, and Who They Threatened

Amusingly enough, the name of the police operation derives from a conversational anecdote recorded by a phone tap of the suspects: “we are not Rambo neither Van Damme, we do the real thing,” one of the suspects reportedly boasted.

Most of the investigation was focused on Samet Imishti, allegedly the head of the group, and arrested in the eastern Kosovo village of Hani I Helezit. He took part in “armed conflict outside of Kosovo’s borders,” and reportedly specifically threatened on Facebook the former US ambassador to Kosovo, Tracy Ann Jacobson, whose term expired in August 2015. She had been in Kosovo during the time when it (and other Balkan countries) were drafting laws against foreign fighters, and starting to make large-scale roundups of radicalized locals.

According to the investigation, the aspiring jihadist referred to the US diplomat as “the American Jew” who “says that the new government will fight corruption (…) I say to this lady that as long as they stay in Kosovo there will be no justice (…) this unfaithful [woman] deserves the punishment of the sharia.”

The Rural Italian Bases of the Kosovar Cell

According to Italian police, Imishti used for his Italian headquarter the little town of Chiari, in the province of Brescia. In this house police also captured the second of the arrested men, his brother Ismail, who was later expelled under the charge of international terrorism. Along with him was arrested a third Kosovar, in the Italian province of Savona. This man was expelled following a decision from the Brescia public prosecutor.

The last Albanian Islamist arrested is a native of Macedonian Albanian residing in Vicenza province.

The Significance of the Special Surveillance Order

Very interestingly, this last individual had been subject of a special surveillance order: in fact, the decision to use this specific measure tells us that Italian investigators are now considering the members of international jihadist networks as similar to members of organized crime groups. Indeed, it was not by chance that this order was directly promulgated by Franco Roberti, Italy’s national anti-mafia prosecutor.

The special surveillance order is a debated and very specific kind of detention order envisaged in the Italian Penal Code, in Law 1423/56 and following modifications. It lays out the rules for pre-trial arrests, and it has frequently been called before the European Commission; lawyers have argued that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights, since it can be applied on the basis of sole suspects and without concrete proof of actual crime.

It is worth noting that this is hardly the first time a DIGOS investigation of suspected Balkan Islamic radicals has employed wiretapping techniques. For example, as Balkanalysis.com reported back in February 2007, a long-term DIGOS surveillance operation resulted in 29 arrests of Balkan Muslims in the Trento-Treviso area (the episode is discussed in detail in Chris Deliso’s The Coming Balkan Caliphate, also from 2007).

Other Aspects of the Investigation

The police commissioner in Brescia, Carmine Esposito, also ordered searches of the homes and workplaces of other people connected with the network in Brescia, Vicenza and Perugia, as well as in Kosovo with the cooperation of the police there. The commissioner also gave an order to check the web material confiscated during the investigation.

As he recalled during the political talk show Agorà on RaiTre last Monday, “in the houses searched in Kosovo we also found arms during a police operation, jointly organized by Italian and Kosovar police, which began contemporaneously in some Italian and Kosovar towns. [The arrested] represent profiles of high risk according to the characterization of Islamic terrorism, and specifically for their action of propaganda, recruitment, and financing of the so-called Islamic State. The crimes these people are charged with… are thus support for terrorism and incitement to racial hatred.”

Most of the investigation was conducted on the web, after the arrested men published on their social profiles photos of themselves holding guns. They also made comments supporting the propaganda of the Islamic State. In their chat groups were also found written threats to the Pope who, in their words, would soon “be visited by terrorists coming from the Middle East.” They warned that Francis would be “the last Pope.”

Balkan Jihadists Provide a New Media Fascination in Italy

As seems evident after last week’s arrests, Italy’s north-eastern regions show the recurring presence of foreign jihadists, as has been documented in Balkanalysis.com coverage of the investigations in recent years. Among them we recall the case of the Bosnian Imam Bosnić, who reportedly enrolled fighters for the jihad in Pordenone and Belluno, and more recently that of the Rawti Shax members in Merano and Trento in November of this year.

The last month of Balkan-related arrests has been covered extensively by Italian media, which seems to be getting more and more interested in international terrorist networks existing in Kosovo, and their possible relations with the Balkan migration route.

The Italian media attention has also been fuelled by reports in the Kosovo press. For example, the Pristina daily Koha Ditore – quoting anonymous sources – recently reported that seven Kosovar Muslims, allegedly supporters of the Islamic State and currently in villages near the Macedonian capital of Skopje, may be planning terrorist attacks against Kosovo. Similarly, a different Kosovar daily, Zeri, also wrote that in the northern section of Kosovska Mitrovica – inhabited by Orthodox Serb minority – threatening graffiti praising the Islamic State has been noticed.

Incidents like this and increasing media attention indicate that ISIS-related activities involving the Balkans in some way are unfortunately going to become more regularly noted in European media in the new year.

Italy Targets Kosovo-linked ISIS Network- But Laws Lag behind the Online Jihad Era

By Chris Deliso and Matteo Albertini

The sustained and ongoing anti-terrorist operations by police across Europe before and after the ISIS Paris attacks are indicative of just how well established and dangerous Islamist radical networks on the continent have become.

The new state of the war on terror must be appreciated- as must the fact that the Balkans (and the ‘Balkan Route’ of migration) are already becoming of much greater interest to the European authorities, as a recent Italian operation dramatically showed. However, the relative novelty of the internet jihad also means that even countries well versed in countering terrorism and organized crime, like Italy, are lagging behind, as we shall see below.

The Paris Attacks and the New State of War

As many analysts have pointed out, the Paris attacks of 13 November can be seen as a turning point in the strategy of the Islamic State, which is now evolving from traditional terrorist attacks by small cells, conducted chiefly in its own geographical area, to more organized and complex paramilitary actions conducted on the territory of a Western state. A new phase in what the Bush administration called the ‘long war’ thus appears to be upon us.

These paramilitary attacks in France represent a serious step up from the January attacks in the same country, against the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo, when the Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen killed 17 persons (12 in Charlie Hebdo’s office, and five in Paris and Montrouge). The recent attacks caused vastly more casualties, and were marked by even more precise actions, with three different teams and three different targets involved, and a considerable logistics network believed to be behind it.

Paris was the third attack Islamic State claimed this month, after an explosive device brought down Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 on November 3 in Sinai and the Beirut attacks on November 11, framing a scenario of extremely high concern about the future operations of the self-proclaimed Caliphate in Middle East and abroad.

Given the Islamic State’s media reach and international support network, threats to other Western cities like Rome, London and Washington must be taken seriously. This has been seen vividly in the Belgian authorities’ recent lockdown of Brussels and continued arrests related to the Paris attacks and possible planned attacks in Belgium. At the same time, pro-migration protesters defied a ban on public gatherings in Paris, an ominous sign of how the terrorism and migration issues are going to converge in future challenges to the authorities’ role.

We consider it highly likely that more attacks will occur, especially considering the growing potential for a possible Western military intervention on the ground in Syria. This is precisely what ISIS wants, not because it expects to win back territory (it will eventually be defeated) but because it can help fire up supporters elsewhere in the world to act in their own countries.

Needless to say, the work of international security agencies and national intelligences is becoming more and more crucial, and especially in Europe, which risks becoming one large (and generally defenseless) theater in an unpredictable war with an evasive enemy.

The Italian-led Operation as Indicator of European Cooperation- and Balkan Focus

Balkanalysis.com recently covered a story which passed almost without notice when it was soon eclipsed by the massive media coverage of the Paris attacks: the Italian-led operation against an ISIS group seeking to overthrow the Iraqi Kurdistan government. While the Paris attacks have been depicted as an example of intelligence failure and poor cooperation, the Italian operation can help us to understand how security agencies are actually cooperating to oppose terrorist networks active on the continent.

To recap, on 12 November some 15 people were arrested in four European countries following a five-year Italian investigation, conducted in coordination with Eurojust: they were members of a terrorist network that not only wanted to attack the Kurdish government in northern Iraq, but also to recruit militants for ISIS in Europe.

The network was called Rawti Shax (“New Course”), and is the European offshoot of Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda. It was founded in 2001 by Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, known as Mullah Krekar. He had already been detained in Norway and jailed as a consequence of this new investigation.

Notwithstanding his confined situation, Mullah Krekar was still able to manage from jail a well-functioning international web of terrorist recruitment, which was invigorated after the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

In the strategy of Ansar Al-Islam, the role of Rawti Shax was to recruit and train possible foreign fighters to be sent to Syria to fight under the banner of the Caliphate against the Iraqi Kurdish Republic. The Kurds are not just the main enemy of Islamic State in the contest for new national state creation, their fighters are also well known as being the most effective military force against ISIS on the battlefield. Therefore, any terrorist attack against the Kurdish authorities would be motivated by both revenge and a desire to destabilize Kurdistan for the terrorists’ benefit.

This organization was until now based in Merano, a little town in Northern Italy where the investigation (conducted by the Italian Carabinieri), tracked the movements of the two main suspects: Abdul Rahman Nauroz, a Kurdish Iraqi citizen, and Eldin Hodza, an Albanian from Kosovo.

The former, allegedly the successor of Mullah Krekar at the head of the organization, was particularly active in online recruitment: as Giuseppe Pignatone, public prosecutor in Rome, stated, “the investigation developed out of computer evidence, as their operating base was mostly the web, the world of the Internet.” In fact, internet cummunication allowed this group to connect small cells spanning Europe, from Greece to Norway. This assisted in, and later promoted, the “jihad lessons” Nauroz gave from his home in Merano.

The latter cell member, Hodza, was a typical ‘foreign fighter,’ who had already been sent to Syria by Nauroz in January 2014. According to the investigation, there he visited an IS training camp, but came back to Italy a month later through Switzerland.

This development is not surprising. As Balkanalysis.com has covered in depth, Albania and Kosovo (and their diasporas) have made sizable contributions to the European jihadist brigades fighting for ISIS. The caliphate even made Albanian one of the chosen languages for translations when it developed its propaganda arm, a truly notable decision considering the relatively small usage of the language globally. And there have been allegations of recruitment centers on their territory, with more than 600 Albanian fighters having visited Syria in the last two years. The Al Nusra Front has also imported Albanian fighters since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, owing to specific local historical and personal connections with Syria.

The Italy-Kosovo Connection

One of these “starting points” on the route to Syria is the small southwestern Kosovo town of Restelica, south of Dragas. Although Balkanalysis.com had isolated this region as a potential center of future radicalization over 10 years ago, it has never been mentioned by the media in general. In the Italian media, Restelica came up in Panorama’s interview on March 15, 2015 with the Italian ambassador to Pristina, Andreas Ferrarese.

Interestingly, in this little town almost everybody speaks Italian and a third of all citizens have worked in Italy; this connection has much to do with how Italian security officials became aware that parts of the Dragas area now represent a major center of ISIS recruitment for Albanians in Kosovo.

The reported jihadist leader for Restelica, the imam Sead Bajraktar, lives near Siena in Italy, where he founded an Islamic center in the town of Monteroni d’Arbia. He frequently travels back to Kosovo, intelligence sources say, to visit his collaborators and to participate in military training. He was once arrested near Dragas (and soon set free) along with a member of the same Monteroni center.

Bajraktar is an important figure in this story as he is considered the man responsible for Eldin Hodza’s radicalization. Already in March, Panorama underlined how Hodza went to Syria and later came back upon payment by a relative who allegedly “ransomed” him from his participation in the jihad. Apparently, the intervention of this relative did not diminish his will to join the ranks of Islamic State, since when he was arrested on 12 November he was still planning to return through Rawti Shax.

Ambassador Ferrarese had already stated in March that “there’s great attention [being paid to] the uninterrupted channel of human trafficking through the Balkans, with a primary role held by Kosovo organized crime. We immediately considered the hypothesis that this route could be used by volunteers going to fight in Syria and Iraq- a route which could furthermore be used by those who are coming back to Europe.”

International security agents working in Kosovo also confirm that some foreign fighters have made it back to Europe along the routes of clandestine immigration through Southeastern Europe, mostly entering Italy at Trieste, from Slovenia. Their transit along the ‘Balkan Route’ from Greece has been expedited by the sheer volumes of persons following this route, which has made it impossible for authorities in the countries along the way to properly identify them.

All too often, advocates of “migrant rights” have succeeded in making their arguments in the media that all migrants are being racially or religiously profiled, when in fact the main problem is simply a logistical one: there have simply been too many people coming in too short of a time. This problem has been exacerbated by poor communication (or no communication) between Greek authorities and those of their ‘northern neighbor,’ Macedonia regarding timing and numbers of arrivals. ISIS would be foolish not to exploit this vulnerability.

Aspects of the Evolving Security Threat Revealed by the Italian Investigation

The story behind these arrests helps us to underline some features of undercover terrorist action in the time of the Islamic State. The first thing that emerges is that many terrorist cells once affiliated with specific jihadist groups (Al Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, etc.) are now working as recruitment and financing agents under the Islamic State umbrella.

This is not surprising, considering that Islamic State derives great wealth from the territory it controls, and can thus heavily finance outside operations, whereas Al Qaeda is nowhere near as well off, and seeks to survive by participating in operations of lower profile such us recruitment and logistical support. This is however a very important function for the Caliphate, which looks for fighters living in Europe, who can operate with less travel restrictions, and thus have the capacity to act in different regions.

Secondly, Italy is becoming a crossroad of international terrorist networks linked to Syria and the Balkans, as the outcomes of recent investigations show. Some persons of interest have already appeared in previous coverage of Italy-Balkan jihadist networks: these include the Bosniak imam Bosnić, arrested with 15 others in September 2014; the imam Idriz Idrizovic, active in Salafi centers in Lombardy; the Prizren imam Mazzlam Mazzlami; Shefqet Krasniqi, imam of the Great Mosque in Pristina: and Idriz Billibani, first arrested in 2010 and allegedly linked to a Kosovar-Italian web of radicalization and recruiting. Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia have all since 2014 made many arrests under new foreign fighters laws.

Italian Concerns over the Stepped-up War and the Vatican’s Imminent Jubilee Year

After the attacks in Paris, the attention of Italian secret services towards the role of the Balkans in linking the country and the Caliphate has become even more acute than usual. This is particularly noteworthy considering that December 8 marks the opening of the “Jubilee Year” that Pope Francis announced on March 13, 2015.

This symbolic event, which occurs every 20-30 years on Papal decree, will start on the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated December 8, 2015. It will close on November 20, 2016.

At the time of the pope’s announcement in March, the National Catholic Reporter noted that the celebration of the jubilee year will formally begin “with the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. The other holy doors of basilicas around the world will then be opened as a sign of God’s opening a new pathway to salvation.”

Considering that Islamic State has pledged to eventually overthrow the Church of Rome and to raise its own banner over St Peter’s, an attack timed to coincide with this symbolic event – and, perhaps, timed to coincide with others at churches in different locations – would be highly tempting for the terrorists.

Of course, as we have noted in The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans, the Church does have its own sophisticated defenses and global intelligence networks. However, the recent Paris attacks reveal that ISIS’ affiliates can also be highly dangerous and agile and this, in addition to the migrant crisis, has forced the Vatican to tap into its international intelligence networks as it hastily tries to identify potential arrivals of terrorists among migrant groups, and in general get any useful information at all about looming threats. The Vatican also has well developed intelligence-gathering networks in Montenegro. Croatia, Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo, as does the Italian state, though it is impossible to show how these overlap in specific cases.

New Developments: Shortcomings in the Penal Code Reduce Investigation’s Success

On 23 November, new developments in the Italian courts affected the outcome of the case. It was announced that five of the 17 arrested in the Jweb investigation in Merano are going to be set free, following a decision of the Procura della Repubblica- in effect, the public prosecutor’s office in Trento. Further, while 14 persons were arrested, two of them were already in jail on charges, and three other claimed accomplices were nowhere to be found.

As Balkanalysis.com already reported, the prosecutor, Giancarlo Capaldo (an expert in terrorism working at the Procura in Rome) conducted the investigation with public prosecutor Pignatone; they identified 17 alleged suspects. But since the jihadist organization was in Merano, officials in Rome had assigned the investigations to Trento, where the Provincial Procura (led by prosecutor Giuseppe Amato) was tasked with conducting the trial.

Amato, therefore, had to ask the Judge for Preliminary Inquiry (GIP) in Trento, Francesco Florenza, to co-validate the arrests. But in their following request they reported just 10 names (among them, Nauroz and Hodza). As they wrote in their comments, they considered as insufficient the charges against Hama Mahmoud Kaml and Mohamad Fatah Goran, both living in Trentino Alto-Adige. At the same, the Trento prosecutors also refused to persecute the three untraceable investigated people.

Therefore, the GIP had no choice but to release both Fatah and Goran, and to order any tracking of the other three vanished cell members stopped. This decision fwas based on the argument that “contact [through communication, ie., internet] does not imply participation in a terroristic association.”

Moreover, a recent change in the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure states that a person can be jailed only on solid proof, and not just according to circumstantial evidence. In this case, some of the people investigated had, in Mr. Florenza’s words, “vanished a long time ago from the horizon of the investigation.”

This development, as related to Il Fatto Quotidiano by Prosecutor Amato himself, seems to be due to the shortcomings in the Italian Penal Code regarding international terrorism. It was also due to the most recent laws about the rules of arrests (art. 274 of the code of criminal procedure, changed by Law 47 of 16 April 2015).

Thus, the largely online nature of the international jihadist network seems to be causing a lot of problems for Italy’s outdated penal codes. This is interesting, since because of all of its long experience fighting the mafia, Italy is usually among the most advanced countries in terms of drafting laws about fighting criminal organizations and terrorism.

Conclusion: Vulnerabilities in Fighting Online Jihad in Europe Will Continue, Enhancing Presence of Non-State Actors

The legislative shortcomings in Italy and other European countries regarding jihad in the internet era are likely to remain a significant vulnerability, especially where they intersect with the ‘civil liberties’ lobbies, thus hampering future investigations from achieving maximal results.

In this state of affairs, it is ironic that pro-civil liberties activist groups unchecked by legal restrictions, such as Anonymous, may have greater capacity to fight against the online jihad than do regular states. The “hacktivist” group, which declared “war” on ISIS following the Paris attacks, now seems to be acting as an intel source with predictions of its own. While some major governments have stated that the group – usually acting against Western governmental and corporate interests – should stay out of the fight, no doubt they are grateful for any disruption it can cause to the terrorist group’s online infrastructure.

There is not even a hypothetical scenario, of course, of how any European court would handle an anti-terrorism case in which official police resources and activities ended up mixed up with the activities of unknown hackers. It is becoming a strange new world indeed.

Italy Takes the Lead in a European Anti-terrorism Operation

By Elisa Sguaitamatti

At least 15 suspected members of an Islamist militant group called Rawti Shax were arrested by Italian police on Thursday 12 November. Italian authorities declared that Rawti Shax, which means “the New Course,” is a Kurdish-Sunni Muslim group that seeks to topple the government in the Kurdistan province of Iraq.

Further, the group had Europe-based “sleeper” and active terrorist cells with radicalized militants based in Britain, Norway, Finland, Germany, Italy, Greece and Switzerland as well as in Iran, Iraq and Syria. All of its members were either willing to become suicide bombers, or to volunteers to be trained for the anticipated future conflict in Kurdistan.

Background: A Five-Year Investigation of Web-based Jihadism

The multiple police raids were based on 17 European warrants (16 Kurds and one Kosovar). The police raids and subsequent investigations confirmed that the radical movement was allegedly planning to target and to take European diplomats hostage, whether in Europe or the Middle East. The group was also said to be responsible for logistical and financial support to fighters in Syria.

In a statement, Italian police said the arrests were the “result of complex and protracted investigations” that began in 2010 following the discovery of a “jihadi” website ideologically affiliated with al-Qaeda in the middle of Europe.

This Italian intelligence-led investigation called “JWeb” had been monitoring the group’s communications via the Internet for five years. The use of the internet allowed the suspects to erase the distance between members, who were residents of several European countries. This enabled them to maintain strong cohesion, reinforced by periodic online chats.

Italy’s national ROS Carabinieri took the lead in collaboration with security forces in Britain, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland, finding out both the structure and the operations of the terrorist organization. Moreover, Italian investigators have claimed to possess documented evidence of the radical and violent ideology of Rawti Shax, which was purchasing weapons in the Netherlands and at the same time trying to establish other “sleeper cells” in Italy and the Netherlands. These were to recruit, proselytize and radicalize militants online.

Events in Norway and a Kosovo Connection

At the same time, in Norway a major role was played by the radical Iraqi preacher Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, known as Mullah Krekar. Besides being the founder of another extremist group called Ansar Al-Islam, he was serving an 18-month term in prison after having praised the murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in January 2015, and for encouraging Muslims to commit criminal acts during a television interview.

This would seem to prove that, in spite of the major rivalries between al Qaeda and the Islamic State on the Syrian and Libyan battlefields, the silent actions of small-scale “entrepreneurs of terror” like Mullah Krekar are what seem to be so alarming in Europe today. Krekar was recorded on a wiretap in November 2012 saying that “death for us is martyrdom…and we are ready against anyone who occupies Kurdistan…Americans, Russians or others.” Krekar also said that “for these (people) who have burned the Koran, at least 100 people are ready to do justice in Europe and Kurdistan.”

The final arrest warrant in the recent police operation was for a Kosovar citizen, Eldin Hodza, the only non-Kurdish involved in the terrorist network. The Italian police did not clarify immediately whether he had been arrested. All the militants were charged with fostering criminal association for international terrorism.

Italian Coordination of a Joint European Security Operation

Thanks to the constant cooperation between European police authorities, simultaneous raids in Italy, the UK and Norway were coordinated by the Italian public prosecutor, Franco Roberti, head of Italy’s anti-mafia and anti-terrorism unit. During a press conference following the police action, he praised “the professionalism of the lawyers and ROS investigators” who had to face this very complex issue by utilizing the best technological strategies to acquire all necessary information.

Additionally, Roberti underlined that “international cooperation worked really well this time,” with a series of meetings organized by the Italian investigators with their European colleagues held at Eurojust, the EU’s Judicial Cooperation Unit located in The Hague.

The success of the joint counter-terrorism operation was also confirmed by Giancarlo Pignatone, Rome’s Public Prosecutor, who explained later that the Kosovar suspect was planning to move from Switzerland (where he was stopped) to Turkey and then to Syria.

Further, Giancarlo Capaldo, Rome’s Special Public Prosecutor, clarified that the international team had been following recent geopolitical events and the movements of the suspects, who had chosen to affiliate themselves with the Islamic State: “We saw some fighters leave for Syria and die in the conflict,” he said.

For his part, the General Commander in Chief of ROS Carabinieri, Giuseppe Governale, remarked that this “JWeb” operation came to an end on 12 November- the same date that in 2003 some Italian journalists, members of the police and soldiers died in a terrorist attack in Nassiriya. He also maintained that “it is the most important police operation that has ever been achieved in Europe over the last twenty years.”

Finally, the Minister of Interior, Angelino Alfano, commented on the event. “It is a wonderful day for the Italian state and the Italian team,” he said. “In one day, ROS Carabinieri carried out one of the most important counter-terrorism operations, which shows how strong the state is and how essential the international cooperation is. We are a country exposed to the international risk of terrorism because we are part of that great international coalition that is opposed to the caliphate. Italy’s preventive measures worked, but no country is immune.”

These comments were tragically illustrated just a day after the Italian-led operations, with the massive terrorist attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State. All of these turbulent events indicate that enhanced police cooperation across Europe is going to be more prominent – and necessary – as the struggle against terrorism continues.

Notes on the 15th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1244

By Anita McKinna

Today is the 10th of June, marking the fifteenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which established the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and marked the beginning of the reconstruction of Kosovo after the war. It is in many ways an extraordinary document, both for the far-reaching mandate of UNMIK that is not constrained by time, and for its inclusion of provision for a political process designated to determine Kosovo’s future status, which has not been paralleled either before or since.

1244 allowed Kosovo to develop its democratic institutions and begin to slowly overcome the effects of the war, with an extensive international presence. While Kosovo still has many improvements to make, including strengthening rule of law, addressing transitional justice, combating widespread corruption, and boosting economic development, recent milestones including the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo regarding the normalization of relations, and this weekend’s parliamentary elections (the first where Serb turnout has been encouraged by the Serbian Government since the war), demonstrate the significant progress that has been made with respect to inter-ethnic relations and democratic development in Kosovo since 1999.

With the help of the international administration, Kosovo has developed democratic institutions almost from scratch. On paper its protection of minority rights, including substantial reserved seats in the Kosovo Assembly, goes further than many Western European countries. The Brussels Agreement signed last year by Kosovo and Serbia’s respective prime ministers marked the beginning of the process of normalization of relations between the two countries.

This cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia has also meant that both countries have progressed towards membership in the EU, with Serbia officially starting EU accession talks in January and Kosovo completing negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU.

Despite progress in relations between Kosovo and Serbia, UNSC Resolution 1244 is still in place on its fifteenth birthday. As it reaffirms the commitment of UN member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (succeeded by Serbia), the refusal of Serbia (as well as Russia and China) to recognize Kosovo’s independence means that it has not been replaced or abrogated. Despite the International Court of Justice ruling in 2010 that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law, Kosovo’s independence is still disputed.

The continuing relevance of 1244 was again reiterated in the 2012 “asterisk agreement”, whereby Kosovo would be allowed to be represented in regional and international meetings as long as there was an asterisk next to its name, which referred to the footnote stating that ‘this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence’.

For many Serbs, 1244 is seen as protection against Kosovo’s independence and means that so long as it is in place, Kosovo is still a part of Serbia. For many Albanians in Kosovo, 1244 is seen as an outdated shackle that should be removed, especially now that the Brussels Agreement has been signed. Since the declaration of independence, 1244 has restricted Kosovo’s sovereignty, and has ensured that Kosovo’s authorities have no ownership over the international presence. Its continuing relevance is also hindering Kosovo’s chances of membership in many international and regional institutions. Opposition leader Isa Mustafa from the Democratic League of Kosovo party has used 1244 in his recent election campaigning, promising that he will succeed in replacing it and open the path to finalizing recognitions for Kosovo and its membership in international institutions, thus highlighting that even fifteen years on, 1244 is still an important issue in Kosovo’s domestic political scene.

Fifteen years after it came into effect, UNSC Resolution 1244 continues to have a significant impact on Kosovo. It has shaped the contradictory relationship between the international community and Kosovo. On one hand it facilitates the regionally-unparalleled international presence, even fifteen years after the end of the war. But on the other hand it is at the same time contributing to Kosovo’s international isolation and inability to gain membership into the very international institutions that make up this presence. Thus the fifteenth anniversary of Resolution 1244 is a significant landmark for both the youngest country in Europe and for the international community, for which Kosovo, and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, represents a bold attempt to transform a post-conflict society.

 

Despite Trouble in Northern Municipalities, Kosovo Elections Mark Historic Step Forward

By Anita McKinna

Western media coverage of the recent municipal elections in Kosovo largely preferred to focus on disturbances at polling stations in the north, with the majority of media using the word ‘violence’ in headlines. Such headlines include ‘Kosovo violence leaves elections in tatters’ (BBC), ‘Violence on Election Day’ (Economist), ‘Violence mars Kosovo Elections’ (Guardian), ‘Masked gang’s attack on polling station in Kosovo threatens elections’ (Independent).

These headlines refer to the events of Sunday afternoon, in which masked intruders entered a polling station in north Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, with the aim of damaging election material and removing election officials, monitors and voters, thus disrupting the electoral process. As a precaution, all polling stations in northern Kosovo were closed early.

Such disruption is unsurprising for observers of Kosovo’s transition from a war-torn society towards democracy and independence. Indeed this election campaign period saw intimidation of candidates, and widespread anti-election protests in the north. Krstimir Pantić and the wife of Oliver Ivanović were attacked in the run-up to the elections in apparent attempts to dissuade them from participating in the elections. It would be naïve to believe, whatever the support for the elections from political entities in Kosovo or Serbia, that those who would benefit, either financially or politically from failed elections would simply allow events to unfold peacefully and successfully.

But even despite such disruptions, looking back only a relatively short time reveals just how much these elections can be considered a symbol of progress for Kosovo. Fourteen years ago Kosovo’s ethnic communities were at war. And nine years ago the country experienced extremely violent riots that saw people killed, people forced from their houses, and homes and churches destroyed.

Two years ago, following unilateral action by Kosovo Police to take control of border points in the north, road blockades and violent protests erupted. Ethnically-motivated incidents and violence are still not uncommon in Kosovo. So while Sunday’s events should be strongly condemned by proponents of democracy, these events should be put into context and whatever the media headlines imply, noone was killed or seriously injured on Sunday, and the incidents at the polling station did not incite widespread violence.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the electoral process in the south of Kosovo, including municipalities with a Serb majority, was praised by election monitors. It has been announced that a re-run will be held on 17November in north Mitrovicë/Mitrovica.

More importantly, these elections represent historic progress for Kosovo, even despite the disruptions, as they are the first Kosovo elections since the end of the war that have been actively promoted by Serbia’s political establishment and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Past elections saw vehement opposition from these two groups to Kosovo Serbs participation in Kosovo’s political system and elections. Their approval currently illustrates just how far things have come in a relatively short period of time.

For example, in August 2004, Bishop Artemije declared that ‘there is no single reason’ why Serbs should vote… participation in these elections would mean our ruin’. On election day that year it was also reported that a Serb priest blocked the opening of a polling station in Viti/Vitina. In October 2007 UNMIK Spokesman Alexander Ivanko acknowledged that ‘UNMIK has received concerning reports that both Belgrade and part of the Serb leadership in Kosovo have not only discouraged Kosovo Serbs from participating in the elections but have also intimidated registered voters’. Bishop Artemije again urged Kosovo’s Serbs to boycott the November 2009 municipal elections.

In contrast, last week Sava Janjic from Dečani Monastery, Serbian Patriarch Irinej and Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić were among those who called on Serbs to participate in the elections. Whatever the motives behind this support, it would have been unbelievable just two years ago.

Of course, the attempts to disrupt the election process should not be condoned or belittled, and it cannot be ignored that Kosovo still has a long way to go before Kosovo’s Serbs embrace its institutions, but to focus solely on these problems ignores the significant progress that has been made in Kosovo since 1999.

The following data on election turnout, while admittedly not comprehensive, indicates the participation of Serbs in the southern parts of Kosovo. Indeed, when comparing the situations in some municipalities, it is interesting to note that Serbian turnout was actually higher proportionally than was the case with some Albanian municipalities.

Appendix: Turnout by municipality

Municipality *Turnout %
Ferizaj/ Uroševac

48.65%

Gjakova/ Djakovica

43.85%

Gjilan/ Gnjilane

51.64%

Graçanica/ Gračanica**

54.66%

Leposaviq/ Leposavić**

?

Lipjan/ Lipljan

53.72%

North Mitrovicë/ Mitrovica**

?

South Mitrovicë/ Mitrovica

46.22%

Novo Brdo/Novobërdë**

59.42%

Peja/Peć

44.45%

Prishtina/ Priština

51.11%

Prizren/Prizren

43.80%

Ranilug/Ranillug**

57.79%

Shtërpcë/ Štrpce**

59.17%

Zubin Potok/ Zubin Potok**

?

Zveçan/ Zvečan**

?

Central Election Commission*

Majority or significant Serb population**

Case Study Klinë/Klina: An Unexpected Increase in Crimes against Minorities in Kosovo’s South

By Anita McKinna

The latest round of negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo in Brussels regarding the north of Kosovo has, perhaps understandably, been anticipated as the most important since the dialogue began. Resolving the stalemate regarding the future governance of the three Serb-majority municipalities north of the Ibar River is seen by many as the key to progress for Kosovo, both internally and in a wider regional and international context.

There is no denying the importance of resolving the situation in this part of Kosovo, with almost daily media coverage of violence, protests and unrest. Yet six months after the official end of supervised independence, and five years after Kosovo declared independence the topic of resolving problems in the north still overshadows all other issues affecting Kosovo’s minorities- most of whom actually live south of the Ibar River.

Since the declaration of independence in 2008, Serb communities living in the south have been praised for their increased participation in Kosovo’s political structures. By contrast with the north, Serbs in the south of Kosovo largely embraced the Ahtisaari Plan, with successful implementation of the decentralization component and a considerable increase in turnout in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Deputy International Civilian Representative Christopher Rowan declared after the elections that “the substantial turnout by Kosovo’s Serbs shows that they are increasingly ready to participate and to make Kosovo’s democratic institutions work for them.”

A Surprising Reversal South of the Ibar

Despite these developments, in recent months the situation has deteriorated for the Serb returnee community of Klina municipality in the west of Kosovo. This municipality has gone from being acclaimed for its successful returns programme, to being the scene of a growing number of crimes against Serb residents.

Kosovo’s media reported in May 2012 that Serbs in Klina received threatening pamphlets from the so-called Albanian National Army declaring that ‘history will judge those Albanians who are making it possible for you to return here’ and pressuring residents to leave. The following week Koha Ditore reported that two house belonging to returnees had been set on fire in the village of Drenoc/Drenovac.

Incidents of intimidation against Serb returnees continued throughout 2012, including reports of houses being robbed in Klinavac/Klinvac in June, and the destruction of houses in Grabac in August. On this occasion residents reportedly called the police, but they never came. Houses were again robbed in Klinavac in September; local representative Jovo Jović stated at the time that he believed that the houses were being robbed following someone’s instructions, and that it was the tenth robbery of returnees’ houses in a row.

More houses were targeted a few days later in Bica, and resident Radoslav Doncić concluded from the increased instances of such attacks that there was a lack of will from authorities to protect Serb returnees, and explained that residents were faced with robberies on a daily basis. More recently the property of Jovo Vidić was targeted when a haystack was set on fire in January this year. Vidić explained that looting is also happening quite often.

Negative Incident Trend Noted in New UN and EU Reports

Concerns about these incidents were highlighted in the most recent report from the UN Secretary-General. The report stated that “the trend in the Pejë/Pec region in the west of Kosovo has been of particular concern, with an increasing number of incidents affecting the Kosovo Serb community in Klinë/Klina and Istog/Istok municipalities. During 2012, 73 incidents, or 20% of all incidents reported, occurred in those two municipalities.”

This trend is in contrast to the overall situation in the rest of Kosovo, which according to the UN has seen an overall decrease in the number of recorded incidents affecting minority communities, dropping from 406 in 2011 to 361 in 2012.

The European Commission has expressed similar concerns regarding these attacks, stating that “there has been an increase in ethnically-motivated crime committed against Serb returnees, and security for Serbs south of the river Ibar has deteriorated.”

While it is dangerous to assume that all attacks against Serbs were ethnically motivated, there is no denying that such attacks, whoever the perpetrator and whatever the motive, have a negative effect on perceptions of safety and security. In a concerning development, the Serb community in Klina and Istog has reacted to this increase in attacks by boycotting local community safety council meetings, which the European Commission describes as being ‘the main local bodies mandated to address the security of minorities.’ Thus the boycott marks a significant withdrawal of these communities from Kosovo’s institutions and sends a strong message of dissatisfaction.

Klina: Now Cause for Concern, but once a Minority Re-integration Success Story

The situation in Klina is particularly worrying because, unlike the rest of Kosovo, it has enjoyed a relatively successful returns programme that has been praised on numerous occasions by the international administration and held up as a shining example for the rest of the country. While the majority population of Klina is Albanian, including the mayor, the municipality has facilitated the return of approximately 1500 Serbs.

In July 2005, UNMIK SRSG Soren Jessen-Petersen chose Klina as the place to launch the Strategic Framework on Communities and Returns because it was the first place in Kosovo to facilitate urban returns. In January 2006 the UN again praised Klina municipality for its trailblazing attitude to returns, when it developed the first concept paper on returns that was prepared entirely by local actors.

The UN reported that ‘local authorities have led strongly and committed to supporting returnees without international assistance’. Statements from Klina Serbs themselves support this positive picture for returnees in the municipality at this time. One Serb interviewed by the Humanitarian Law Center explained that “we go into town, we can do our shopping in any store. We’ve never had a single problem. I go to the town hall and get proper service there.” In 2009 the European Centre for Minority Issues reported that there were no recorded incidents of hostility or violence toward returnees in Klina.

The successes of the returns programme in Klina are even more astonishing given the particularly heavy impact of the war in this region of Kosovo. Early post-war predictions for the success of returns programmes in Klina were pessimistic. In 2003 a USAID report explained that ‘the large number of unsolved instances of missing people in Klina could impede progress in sustainable returns.’

Furthermore, the International Crisis Group’s 2002 study of returns in Kosovo stated regarding Klina that ‘this area is an exceptionally challenging place for return. The war began in the neighbouring Drenica valley in 1998, and quickly spread to Klina. As such, it was one of the hardest hit regions in 1998/1999. Over 300 individuals were killed, while 135 remain missing. More than 4,250 houses were destroyed and 7 public enterprises destroyed in the municipality’. Such statistics highlight further just how much has been achieved in Klina with respect to returns, contrary to predictions- and just how important it is to the international community to protect such success.

Conclusion: the Need to Consolidate Progress

Recent events in Klina underscore that, despite the apparent willing inclusion of Serbs south of the Ibar in Kosovo institutions over the past few years, inter-ethnic relations are still not guaranteed. Serbs in the north can point out this reality when making the case for their own resistance to being assimilated under Prishtina’s authority.

This recent increase in attacks against returnees in Klina, and the corresponding decline in perceptions of safety and freedom of movement within the Kosovo Serb community, will likely put new pressure on the government of Kosovo, and the international authorities present there, to investigate such crimes.

There will also be a renewed impetus, both on the municipal and central government levels, to pledge to protect the rights of the minority community. If crimes against minorities are not consistently and strongly condemned by Kosovo’s political elite, we are likely to see a further decline in the Serb minority’s participation in Kosovo’s institutions. This would damage the image of the new country abroad and further hinder the likelihood of a comprehensive and lasting settlement between Belgrade and Prishtina.

Whatever the outcome of the most recent round of talks on the north, the resurgence of violence in Klina indicate that Kosovo’s problems cannot be solved by focusing on the north alone. In this sense, it would be beneficial for all to build on and consolidate the previously substantial and positive progress achieved by the municipality of Klina and its residents.

However, the mysterious undoing of this progress over the past year here indicates again that consolidating the peace requires constant attention and focus. The Kosovo government, and international diplomats, have tended to strategize dispute resolution in the country as a series of distinct campaigns; yet by treating minorities in the south merely as a box that has been ticked off, preliminary to the thornier issue of the north, the Kosovo government and the wider international community risk undoing the progress that has been made in promoting inter-ethnic relations and reconciliation south of the Ibar. Moreover, there is a risk that an agreement on the north could actually jeopardize the ties that have been built between southern Serbs and Pristina. In particular, the International Crisis Group recently warned (.PDF) of such a decline in relations if Belgrade’s proposal for the creation of an autonomous entity for Serb-majority municipalities (including those in the south) were to be implemented.

Any failure to consolidate progress, therefore, would undermine the principles upon which Kosovo independence was supposed to have been founded (i.e., the Ahtisaari Plan), and thus would be damaging both for Kosovo’s desired multi-ethnic character and perceived legitimacy as a state.

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Countries that Recognized Kosovo in 2012 and Implications

By Chris Deliso

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, and since then its leaders have been primarily occupied with getting as many recognitions as possible so as to be able to join the UN and international bodies, sports federations, song contests and so on. In the year 2012, some 13 additional foreign countries recognized Kosovo, leaving Prishtina just two recognitions shy of its goal of having a total of 100 supporters by the end of the year.

Analysis

Kosovo has had uneven results in the challenge of getting foreign countries to recognize it. After the initial burst of recognitions from the big Western supporters of the country, there were long periods of inactivity due to Serbian counter-diplomacy, particularly in Africa and the Arab world. At the lowest point, only seven additional states recognized Kosovo during all 2010.

However, the tide seems to be turning, with key ‘defections’ from the Serbian position in the past two years. The upheaval of the ‘Arab Spring’ has changed the traditional dynamics and actors in the Arab world politically. Of course, formidable obstacles remain so long as China and Russia keep up their commitment to Serbia’s stance.

Kosovo diplomats such as Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj have racked up tens of thousands of air miles in the past year traveling the world to meet with counterparts from countries large and small, which in some cases seems to have made the difference in a few situations that turned out in their favor.

However, much of the thanks for Kosovo’s 13 recognitions in 2012 should go to Turkey, which has used its growing economic and political clout in Africa to the advantage of Kosovo. This growing clout, a topic only recently being emphasized by world media, was anticipated and pointed out over two years ago by Balkanalysis.com, in a piece on the subject on 1 January 2011. And, of the 12 countries that recognized Kosovo in 2011, eight were African states where the same Turkish influence prevails.

The Turkish intermediary role will continue in practical terms in other ways, too. Some of these new recognizers, for example, Pakistan (the last one of the year, on 24 December) announced that it will accredit its current ambassador in Ankara with the Kosovo job as well. Thus Pakistani diplomacy on Kosovo will go through a Turkey lens.

The US was also able to chip in partially during the year, helping to get a few small island states to recognize Kosovo. The reasons for other recognitions are not known. Diplomats from Prishtina have confirmed for Balkanalysis.com that they enjoy ‘direct connections’ with the US State Department on a daily basis, where a desk officer is tasked with lobbying for the country when possible. Kosovar diplomats are attuned to opportunities for meeting and petitioning other diplomats, businessmen and influential persons to their cause.

This is all in stark contrast to the case with neighboring Macedonia, which has chronically suffered a similar predicament (getting more countries to recognize it by its constitutional name). However in this case the Obama administration’s State Department is largely indifferent and does not help this process in any way, though the US has recognized Macedonia’s constitutional name since President Bush made it his first foreign policy move after winning reelection in 2004.

The risible irony here is that the lobbying for such pursuits is thus left up to the Macedonia lobbyists- whose cause is championed by the Turkey lobby. Along with the big EU countries and the US, Turkey is also on the informal committee guiding Kosovo towards its eventual UN membership bid. A meeting of the group took place in November.

For its part, Serbia seems less and less interested in a diplomatic war of attrition, and the feared return to nationalism that followed Tomislav Nikolic’s victory in elections this year has failed to materialize, much to the chagrin of partisan pundits who had hoped for some good material to work with.

All in all, by the end of 2012, 98 sovereign countries had recognized Kosovo. Statistically, this means that over 50 percent of the UN membership recognizes it as a state. Still, there are five non-recognizers from the EU (Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Romania and Slovakia, which Kosovo diplomats will seek to target heavily in 2013. They have already in 2012 published a booklet with British support outlining the policies of each of these states with an eye to understanding how they can be exploited to move them from their position.

However, in late November 2012, it was reported that these countries are ‘less likely than ever’ to recognize Kosovo, with one reason being separatist movements in Spain. And Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik very recently stated that even though he has come under “enormous pressure” he would not allow Sarajevo to recognize Kosovo.

The following list cites the names and dates of countries recognizing Kosovo during the past year. Where the source of influence on the decision has been definitely established by Balkanalysis.com, this data is also provided.

2012 Recognitions by Date

Ghana (January 26, 2012) Note: direct Turkish influence

Haiti (February 10, 2012) Note: indirect US influence

Uganda (February 17, 2012) Note: direct Turkish influence

Sao Tome and Principe (March 17, 2012) Note: direct Turkish influence

Brunei (April 25, 2012) Note: direct Turkish influence

Chad (June 1, 2012) Note: direct Turkish influence

Papua New Guinea (October 28, 2012)

Burundi (October 28, 2012) Note: direct Turkish influence

Timor-Leste (November 9, 2012)

Fiji (November 22, 2012)

St. Kitts and Nevis (November 27, 2012) Note: indirect US/UK influence

Dominica (December 11, 2012) Note: indirect US/UK influence

Pakistan (December 24, 2012)

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Book Review: The Kosova Liberation Army: Underground War to Balkan Insurgency, 1948-2001

Balkanalysis.com editor’s note: with last week’s regional celebrations of Albania’s independence centennial, and yesterday’s final acquittal of Ramush Haradinaj at the Hague, national aspirations are likely to increase in future. The friendly competition to be ‘on the right side of history,’ dictates the future publication of apologetic studies in the tone of the one presently reviewed.

By Anita McKinna

In The Kosova Liberation Army, British scholar James Pettifer continues his investigation into the war in Kosovo that began with Kosova Express. But while the latter provided an eyewitness account into the war as it happened, this latest book examines the origins of the movement that became the KLA and its development into an insurgent campaign that engaged in armed conflict against Milošević’s forces.

The Kosova Liberation Army also charts the subsequent transition of key KLA members into representatives of Kosovo’s political elite. There are no shortages of literary contributions on the war in Kosovo, but while most existing works focus on the international component of the conflict, Pettifer’s emphasis is very much on the role of Kosovars themselves in the war. Furthermore, the author engages with existing authoritative works on the topic, such as those of Noel Malcolm, Tim Judah and Misha Glenny. In addition, he consults an extensive number of Albanian-language sources, and also draws on personal interviews with key figures involved in the war. The book also contains a substantial collection of appendices with useful reference materials such as the military organisation of the KLA, timelines, and political platforms of the Kosova People’s Movement (LPA), the Popular Front for a Kosova Republic (LPRP) and the KLA.

The book begins with a short explanation of the situation in Kosovo prior to the Second World War, and then goes on to chart the rise of the Albanian unification movement from 1950 onwards. It details the ideological origins of the KLA with discussion about Maoist, Guevarist and Enverist influences, and outlines the early guidance of Tirana and the prominent diaspora in Switzerland. Within Kosovo itself Pettifer describes the rise of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) and its iconic leader Ibrahim Rugova. He analyses Rugova’s policy of civil disobedience and reliance on the idea of international rescue, as well as the eventual marginalization of Rugova at the Rambouillet negotiations and subsequent rise of the KLA.

Pettifer goes into some detail about military techniques, including the impact that the KLA’s inability to harness the use of explosives effectively had, and the technical and strategic shortcomings of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA)/Yugoslav Forces (VJ). He also analyzes the tenor of international involvement in the conflict and charts the transformation of western understanding of the conflict, from attempting to retain Yugoslav borders and towards accepting the idea of Kosovo as a future independent state. In an interesting footnote, the author recounts asking Tony Blair in Pristina (in July 1999) whether the British government was considering future independence for Kosovo- Blair apparently had seemed surprised that the question was even raised.

Pettifer also highlights the impact that Serbia’s myth of military superiority had on Milosevic’s decision-making. He also discusses the Serbian reliance on antiquated doctrine; in particular, he cites a comment that Milosevic had made, attesting that securing Kosovo in 1945 had been achieved at Drenica through frontal military confrontation. The Yugoslav leader had planned to do the same in 1998, without taking into account the changes that Kosovo had undergone in the intervening period.

The KLA also had the advantage of inside knowledge of the JNA and VJ as some leaders, including Haradinaj, had previously been conscripted and thus had seen firsthand how things had deteriorated.

By contrast, the KLA’s early success lay in its hit-and-run guerrilla campaign. But it was drawn into traditional warfare in Rahovec in the summer 1998, and lost the key advantage of surprise, which resulted in defeat there and ended the myth of KLA invincibility. Pettifer also focuses on the KLA’s recognition of the importance of adapting their image both domestically and internationally to increase support.

Aside from the footnote about a conversation with Tony Blair, however, there are few new tidbits about foreign political leaders, though they might seem appropriate here. The author does mention one of the famously controversial players in the war effort, the former head of the OSCE’s ‘Verification Mission’ in Kosovo, William Walker. The American was vocal in claiming a massacre of ethnic Albanians had occurred in January 1999 in Raçak, an incident which gave a strong push for NATO intervention. However, the incident has always been murky, with the Yugoslav government (and French journalists who filmed the battle) claiming that the KLA later deliberately massed battle casualties to simulate a massacre scene. In fact, the Yugoslav government had allowed journalists and international observers to be present for their police action in the village, and no one reported any such massacre until the next day, when the village was back under KLA control. Nevertheless, Pettifer denounces any criticism of Walker by saying that any accusation that he had fabricated Raçak for political reasons was ‘plainly untrue, as all independent verification of the facts has revealed.’

The author outlines the events surrounding the cessation of hostilities and the demilitarization of the KLA and charts the rise of certain KLA commanders into the highest echelons of Kosovo’s political elite. In particular Pettifer makes the link between Hashim Thaçi’s military successes and his post-war reputation and political career. Pettifer also includes a final chapter on the relatively uncharted topic of the spread of conflict into Preshevo Valley in southern Serbia and Macedonia, in 2000 and 2001 respectively.

From the beginning of the book it is clear to the reader that Pettifer’s allegiances lie firmly with the Kosovar Albanians. After all, on the first page of the acknowledgments section Pettifer pledges his gratitude to Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi and former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, both former KLA commanders who have had to defend themselves against allegations of war crimes (and, in the case of Haradinaj, two court cases- the second has now resulted in a final acquittal). Pettifer’s repeated mention of the death of KLA strongman Adem Jashari and members of his extended family, and the emotive language that is used to describe these events, further illustrates the author’s lack of objectivity on the subject matter.

Pettifer is extremely critical of the international community’s involvement in Kosovo, both before (the Kosovo Verification Mission), during (NATO) and after (UNMIK, EULEX) the war. Most criticisms of internationals, however, are directed at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Pettifer offers little explanation for his assertions that the ICTY’s pursuit of political leaders, including Haradinaj, is entirely politically-motivated.

Furthermore, while he goes into some detail regarding the atrocities that were committed by members of the JNA/VJ, there is no explicit mention of similar atrocities being committed by members of the KLA, or war crimes cases that have resulted in convictions. Thus the reader is left with the impression that for the author, the idea that such events could have taken place is apparently inconceivable. This impression unfortunately undermines the study as a whole. It is particularly unfortunate given that the events described happened in living memory, and a more balanced approach would have thus been both possible and a welcome contribution to transitional justice and inter-ethnic reconciliation.

Nevertheless, this book is well-researched and well-written and therefore comprises a significant contribution to the field, as it comprehensively details the rise of the KLA and its ongoing influence on the contemporary Kosovar political landscape. Thus, this book should appeal not only to students of Kosovo’s recent history and its contemporary politics, but also to those wishing to understand the effect that the war has had on the psyche of Kosovo’s people, and the high regard with which former KLA commanders are still held.

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Who’s Who Among Northern Kosovo’s Political Actors

Balkanalysis.com editor’s note: As Kosovo’s period of supervised independence has officially ended, one of the chronic issues facing the government and international powers is how the status of the Serbian-majority municipalities north of the River Ibar will be settled- if it even can be. The issue is emotive, the personalities involved obscure to most outsiders.

The following rundown, therefore, gives a short summary of the major local Serbian and Albanian political figures who will be involved in the unfolding drama of “the North” and how it will conclude.

By Anita McKinna

Kosovo recently marked the official end of the period of ‘supervised independence.’ But the refusal of Serbs to recognize Kosovo’s independence, and the instability that stems from protests against recognition, highlight that the Ahtisaari proposal is far from being implemented in this part of Kosovo.

Serbs in Northern Kosovo have consistently refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of Kosovo’s central government in Prishtina. Conditions deteriorated in July 2011, when a Kosovo Police operation attempted to take control of the border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia. Since then, roadblocks (including a barricade on the main bridge over the Ibar River) and violence (including against KFOR) have been common.

Former Serbian President Boris Tadić initiated a policy shift away from supporting Kosovo’s Serbs against integration into Kosovo’s institutions, and towards urging an end to violence against KFOR, in the hope that Serbia would be seen as sufficiently proactive in resolving the conflict to warrant EU candidacy status. In March this year such status was granted, but the perceived abandonment of Kosovo’s Serbs by Belgrade damaged relations. The International Crisis Group reported earlier this year that Belgrade had lost the control and trust of the Serb community in Northern Kosovo, which was now looking to home-grown leaders. Below is a short list of the most prominent political representatives in northern Kosovo.

Krstimir Pantić* (Serbian Progressive Party)– Mayor of North Mitrovica. In July Koha Ditore reported that Pantić asserted after Serb protests in the north that ‘this is a nation to which the more pressure you make, the firmer it becomes and is even ready to go to war be it against its own government or the international community if pressure persists’. In July this year, Pantić responded to the International Steering Group’s decision to end Kosovo’s period of supervised independence by saying that it was good news, because the International Civilian Office supported Kosovo’s independence. It was reported in B92 that Pantić also blamed the international presence in the north for the deteriorating security situation, stating that KFOR was bowing to pressure from Kosovo’s political institutions.

Avni Kastrati  (Democratic Party of Kosovo)– Mayor of (ethnic-Albanian majority) South Mitrovica. Kastrati said that Albanians in northern Kosovo should defend themselves against armed Serbs. In August the Mitrovica Municipality website reported that Kastrati had requested KFOR Commander Erhard Drews to remove the barricade of the main bridge in Mitrovica, saying that it gave a bad impression of the city. In May the Kosovo-based investigative programme Life in Kosovo alleged that Kastrati had not declared major assets and the Anti-Corruption Agency launched an investigation. In July Kastrati made the news again when Kosova Times reported that he had used his position to allow his nephew to use municipal property to open a restaurant.

Marko Jakšić (Democratic Party of Serbia)- former Director of the Mitrovica Medical Centre and member of Serbia’s parliament. Internationals tend to portray him as a radical, and he has been an influential figure in northern Kosovo throughout the period of international supervision. The ICG reported that in 1999 he was responsible for forcing all Albanian patients and doctors to leave the hospital in north Mitrovica. Former Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanovic’s car was stoned in June 2009, the ICG reported that Jakšić was blamed and fired from his hospital job.

However, on September 8th Albanian-language newspaper Zeri reported that Kosovo PM Hasim Thaci is soon expected to sign a stabilization agreement with Jakšić in return for Kosovo getting started on visa liberalization. If true, it will mark a significant indicator of a new shift away from negotiating with Belgrade and towards direct negotiations with Serb political leaders in Kosovo.

Milan Ivanovic – President of the Serb National Council, and another perceived radical and influential Serb in the north. In 2005, the International Crisis Group reported that ‘he keeps his grip through patronage, intimidation, anti-Albanianism, and Serbia’s backing,’ while some media have claimed ties to criminal groups. For example, B92 in 2011 referred to supposed ‘NATO confidential documents’ that claimed he was involved with fuel smuggling and generally radical activities. Ivanovic denied this and stated that such documents were probably non-existent, calling it ‘Kosovo media propaganda’.

Radenko Nedeljković* – (Democratic Party) Head of Mitrovica District. A Jaksić critic, he was appointed head of Mitrovica District and imposed some control over the formerly DSS-led municipalities. B92 reported recently that Nedeljković announced that he had information that EULEX/KFOR were planning to close all border crossings with Serbia and forcefully integrate Serbs into Kosovo’s institutions.

Oliver Ivanović – former State Secretary at the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo, and the longest-serving and probably most respected Serbian political figure by the international community since the 1999 NATO bombing. A moderate whose car was blown up in 2005 after he defied Belgrade’s orders and participated in Kosovo’s elections, Ivanović was a member of the Kosovo Assembly from 2004 to 2007. Due to his moderate views and ability to speak Albanian he is the most high-profile Kosovo Serb politician in the Albanian-language media in Kosovo.

Dragiša Vasić* – (Serbian Progressive Party) – new Mayor of Leposavić. He replaced the only remaining DS mayor of the four Serb-majority Kosovo municipalities, Branko Ninić, in July 2012 after the coalition between the Democratic Party (DS), the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the Party of United Pensioners of Serbia (PUPS) disintegrated.

Slavisa Ristić*– (Democratic Party of Serbia) Mayor of Zubin Potok. Shots were fired at his house in late August. Responding to Tadić’s call to remove the blockades in November 2011, B92 reported that Ristic said that he was disappointed but not surprised by Tadić’s withdrawal of support, and declared that ‘those who betrayed the country should be held responsible for treason, and this responsibility cannot be transferred to someone else’.

Dragisa Milović* – (Serbian Progressive Party) re-elected as Zveçan’s mayor in June 2012. In 2011 Milovic reached an agreement with KFOR to unblock roads in the municipality to allow KFOR to travel freely. But tension increased in June when KFOR alleged that Zveçan residents fired missiles at KFOR soldiers who were attempting to remove barricades. Blic reported that Milović denied the allegations and claimed that KFOR members beat up citizens and denied them medical attention.

*These positions are not officially recognized by Kosovo’ institutions and are considered to be ‘parallel structures’.

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