Expert sees "smouldering terrorism" in South Serbia, "terrorism" in Kosovo

Published on November 2, 2006, BBC Monitoring Service

Category: Islamic Terror in Kosovo

Text of report by Dragana Bokan headlined: "Who goes hunting with a Zolja rocket launcher?" by Serbian newspaper Borba on 30 October

Four Albanians from southern Serbia were part of an international criminal gang suspected of smuggling at least 275 illegal immigrants from Kosovo into Western Europe over the past seven months. The gang was smashed recently in a joint operation of the Slovak, Serbian, Croatian, and B-H police forces.

The four Albanians, who live close to a border crossing with Kosovo, were identified by members of the Organized Crime Squad. A coordinated police operation was carried out after 10 months of surveillance kept on members of this criminal group in Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, and Austria; also, 39 apartments were searched and 36 people were arrested.

"In Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija], there is systematic terrorism against Serb civilians, which UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] records, while the provisional Kosovo institutions may perhaps note its existence, but they do nothing about it. The purpose of this is to show that the situation there has improved and that the territory should be given independence, while disrupting the territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia. The fact is that the Serbian MUP [Interior Ministry] and the Security Information Agency (BIA) are foiling more and more cases of people trafficking. These are Albanians moving across Serbia. Who is to say, for example, that these activities are not planned and that they are not meant to finance terrorism in Kosovo-Metohija," Milan Mijalkovski, professor at the Belgrade University Faculty of Security, explains for Borba.

According to Mijalkovski, terrorism is practiced in Kosovo-Metohija because perpetrators are not being arrested or, if they are, they are released within a very short time.

"A glaring example of this is the case of a 17-year-old youth that recently threw a grenade on the Dolce Vita cafe bar in Mitrovica. The reasons given for his release were that he was under age, mentally incompetent, and so on. This suggests that somebody manipulated him," Professor Mijalkovski says.

Senior police officials have recently said that the security situation in Serbia is stable and that security in our country is at the same level as security in the other countries in the region. The question that arises is whether there are organized terrorist groups in Serbia. "We have already had a number of incidents where extremists took quite strong action. I will draw one parallel here: a trial is in progress of members of the National Formation [Nacionalni Stroj neo-nazi organization] in Novi Sad. On the other hand, however, inasmuch as we are making a comparison, an incident that occurred in Novi Pazar, where extremists smashed the musical instruments of the Balkanika band, was a much more serious one, in my opinion. Were any measures taken in that case? People have no information about this. They were both of them incidents. On the one hand, consistent action is being taken against people from the National Formation, who are answering charges of fanning racial and religious hatred. As for the situation in Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja, it is true that there are no terrorist incidents there, but two weeks ago, a grenade was fired on army members at their base in the south and this grenade had come not from the territory of Kosovo, but from our own territory. Media did not say much about this. Why is this being hushed up? The grenade was fired on a hunting day. Was this a coincidence and who fired the grenade? Did they go hunting with a Zolja [Wasp rocket launcher] and what were they hunting? Obviously, this was a deliberate act and one which was not the work of a lone individual. There is no terrorism there in the conventional sense that has a violent expression, but there is smoldering terrorism," our interviewee says.

The recent large explosion at the military depot at Paracin is attracting people's attention. Various stories have appeared in the media, one of which was that there was a suspicion that the series of explosions and fires at Paracin had been caused by a terrorist act.

Our interviewee, who headed the Department of Security at the Military Academy for many years, believes that the investigation will discover the true causes of the Paracin disaster.

"One must take into account objective facts and these show that, since the start of the army reform two years ago, the reduction of military cadres has been going on at a brisk pace. Thus, we have a situation where a large number of commissioned officers and noncoms, who are competent to handle mines and explosives, have met the requirements for retirement and are leaving. On the other hand, one should not rule out the possibility of a terrorist attack, if one bears in mind that the number of army members that were securing the depot was very small. There were something like six or seven guards, in addition to the technical security measures," Professor Mijalkovski says.

Some people were of the opinion that the security services should have had information about the facility's security and should have acted to prevent the accident.

Our interviewee says that Defence Minister Zoran Stankovic himself said that the government had been warned down the chain of command about the possibility of a disaster.

"If the minister was issuing the warning, he could have been informed down the chain of command, as well as by the Military Security Agency [VBA]. The VBA is certainly competent to know, because its main job is to protect personnel, materiel, and facilities of the Army of Serbia and the Defence Ministry against all kinds of threat. If there were indications that the protection of the materiel was inadequate, the VBA should certainly have had to have been aware of all these fine points," our interviewee says.

Speaking about the military security services, many people are of the opinion that these have not been adequately reformed. We ask Professor Mijalkovski for his opinion.

"Where the military security services are concerned, they have been reformed already. Practically, when we take into consideration all the elements of the Defence Ministry and the army, I believe that the military security service is near the top of the list of the reformed institutions. I am not just saying this off the top of my head; I am speaking from facts and from the simple reason that a large number of VBA members have attended various specialist training courses and are cooperating highly successfully as part of agreed cooperation with the intelligence services in the Euro-Atlantic security structures. It is easy to say: 'Carry out a reform.' In my opinion, this is tendentious," Professor Milan Mijalkovski says at the end of our talk.

Source: Borba, Belgrade, in Serbian 30 Oct 06


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