26/02/2001 - Trep็a.net

Seven Kosovar Brothers Say 'Enough Is Enough' After Attack

February 23, 2001 / THE NEW YORK TIMES
PRISTINA, 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 year.
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 alone."
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 they thrive.
"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 their territory."
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 said.
Although 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 go quiet."  

   Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company