NATO peacekeepers, police seize weapons cache in Kosovo

Published on December 21, 2006, AP

Category: Organized Crime in Kosovo

NATO peacekeepers and police seized a large weapons cache during a raid in Kosovo and arrested three suspects, a police official said Thursday.

Police raided locations in the village of Stutica, in central Kosovo, after receiving information on weapons smuggling late Tuesday, said police spokesman Veton Elshani. The weapons, which were being examined by NATO-led peacekeepers, included rockets and ammunition. Police did not have further details on the size of the cache.

Two suspects were arrested at the scene and police also arrested a suspect in eastern Kosovo, Elshani said. Local media identified one of the suspects as a member of the Alliance for Future of Kosovo, part of the province's ruling coalition government, and the other as an adviser to the Ministry of Social Welfare. The alleged involvement of a government official in the weapons seizure drew condemnation by Kosovo's government, which distanced itself from the official and commended law enforcement agencies for the seizure of illegal weapons.

Kosovo has been administered by United Nations mission since mid-1999, when a NATO air war halted a crackdown by Serb forces on separatist ethnic Albanian rebels. The province is patrolled by some 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers, who are in charge of the overall security in Kosovo.

Tensions in the province have been increasing as U.N.-mediated negotiations are under way to resolve the province's future status. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants full independence, but Belgrade wants to retain some control over what it considers a crucial part of Serbia.

The U.N. envoy facilitating months of so far inconclusive talks between the bitterly divided sides is due to make a final recommendation early next year on the province's future.

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