- February 23, 2001 / THE NEW YORK TIMES
- By CARLOTTA GALL
Kosovo, Feb. 21
The seven brothers of the Geci family were always at the
forefront of the war against Serbia, and their home lies in
the hilly central heartland of the Kosovo Albanians' fight for
independence. Last weekend, they took a courageous step of a
different kind, gathering the people of their village to
denounce the bomb attack that killed at least 11 Serbian
civilians last Friday.
- There is a climate of fear in Kosovo:
although most Albanians say they are tired of violence, and
voted overwhelmingly for the more moderate of their political
parties in last October's municipal elections, few will speak
out, let alone act against the perpetrators of violence.
- But the Geci brothers, led by Fadil
Geci, 39, a regional leader of the Democratic League of
Kosovo, a moderate party, decided with the bomb blast that
enough was enough. "We had a meeting in the village and
decided it was the worst, most cowardly thing what
happened," Mr. Geci said. "We must find who did
this. It would be easier to breathe freely and for the
internationals to do their job if we do."
- Only one Albanian-language daily, Koha
Ditore, expressed outrage at the bus attack, the bloodiest and
most brazen assault on the Serbian minority in more than a
- Bota Sot, the newspaper that supports
Mr. Geci's own party, played it down, placing the story on an
inside page. Albanian politicians issued standard statements,
and only one, the former rebel commander, Ramush Haradinaj,
condemned the bus bomb as an act of terrorism. "That was
a brave move, to use the word terrorism," said Veton
Surroi, publisher of Koha Ditore. "At last we are not
- Because he dares to speak his mind,
Mr. Geci said he fears his life is in danger from hard-line
opponents of his party.
- In an interview at his home in Lausa,
a village still in ruins from the 1999 Kosovo war, he accused
people by name, in particular the former political leader of
the Kosovo Liberation Army, Hashim Thaci, and his associates,
of being behind much of the violence in the province.
- Mr. Thaci denies orchestrating the
violence and pointed to his public statements condemning the
latest attack and others. Nevertheless, the public perception
that he is involved in corruption and violence cost him in
last October's election, where his party finished with a
disappointing 27 percent of the vote.
- The violence in Kosovo has acquired
new dimensions in the last few months. There are now daily
clashes between Albanian rebels and Serbian forces across the
border east of Kosovo, where three Serbian police officers
were killed when a land mine destroyed their car two days
after the bus blast, and armed activity and gunrunning is
spilling into neighboring Macedonia.
- Extra troops have been sent to join
the American soldiers patrolling the eastern border. United
Nations police officers have had three riot teams on standby
since Friday as protests have flared in the Serbian enclaves
across Kosovo and blocked the main road south from the
capital, Pristina, for days.
- In the cycle of blood and vengeance
that has driven the death and destruction of the past 10
years, no one questions that there will be more violence. A
Yugoslav minister warned this week that Albanian rebels were
planning a coordinated offensive in March across Kosovo,
southern Serbia and even into Macedonia.
- In Kosovo, peacekeepers and United
Nations police officers are more cautious in their assessment,
but they say that it takes only a handful of men to start
something, and if they are determined, terrorists can get
through the most stringent security measures.
- The international peacekeeping mission
is looking increasingly troubled, and contributing nations are
divided as to how to proceed, one senior British officer said.
He saw the overriding mission now as one of containing what he
termed the Albanian threat to the whole region, with the
immediate task being to suppress the insurgency of armed
Albanian rebels inside southern Serbia.
- This officer, reflecting continuing
European objections to independence for Kosovo, said that
extremists must be suppressed and the Albanians persuaded to
accept that Kosovo will always be part of Serbia.
- Peacekeepers, United Nations police
officers and administrators display impatience with the Kosovo
Albanians nowadays. Some attribute the escalating violence to
a hard core of pro-independence supporters who see their goal
slipping away. Others say organized crime is driving the
violence and criminals want Kosovo to remain unstable so that
- "There's drugs going through
here, weapons, a lot of women being trafficked and abused,
stolen vehicles so it's big money," said Norm
Boucher, director of operations of the United Nations police
in Kosovo. "The weapons are coming from far away, from
China and Russia. That states that a lot of people are
involved, they are making big bucks and trying to protect
- Mr. Boucher, a Canadian police
officer, put the bus attack down to hatred for Serbs and
opposition to the return of Serbian refugees to the province.
But the design and execution of the explosion was nearly
perfect, denoting a high level of expertise and leadership, he
the police have a good lead with two men arrested at the
scene, the general climate of fear and threats as well as
the lack of sophisticated intelligence equipment and of a
witness protection program will make it difficult to find
the ringleaders behind the bombing, he said.
- For Mr. Geci, it is crucial that the
perpetrators of this and other crimes are caught. Most violent
crimes in Kosovo remain unsolved, but he said that only the
arrest of criminals and not politicians' statements
will change the minds of Albanians about abandoning violence.
"The population can speak out the moment the criminals
are caught," he said, "not when someone tells them
what to do."
- Mr. Geci also wants the United Nations
administration to give the people of Kosovo a stronger voice
with parliamentary elections this year. "It could be more
dangerous if the citizens have no power," he said.
"There should be institutions and law enforcement, and
slowly people should be made to work under supervision of the
U.N. And if a few criminal groups get caught, the others will