Iraq sparks UN Kosovo police fight, three die
KOSOVSKA MITROVICA: Two Americans and a Jordanian were shot dead in Kosovo on Saturday when emotions over Iraq apparently boiled over into a gunbattle between members of the UN law enforcement mission.
UN police spokesman Neeraj Singh said two US police officers and a Jordanian were killed and 10 Americans and one Austrian wounded in the shooting.
The lethal firefight between fellow members of the UN force was unprecedented in five years of peacekeeping in Kosovo, where police of some 30 nations make up the international force of around 3,500.
The 10-minute shootout took place in the UN compound in ethnically divided Mitrovica — a city that is more commonly the scene of clashes between Serbs and Albanians, in which UN police and NATO troops intervene to keep the peace.
Initial reports that the shooting centred on a detention centre in the compound were inaccurate. But the UN said the dead and wounded included both police and prison staff.
The deputy head of the Serb hospital in Mitrovica, Milan Ivanovic, said one of the dead was an American woman, who was hit along with four female US police colleagues.
UN police sources said four Jordanian police officers had been arrested in connection with the shooting, but could give no further details on the cause.
A police source said it began with a row over Iraq. Singh said the UN was still investigating the possible motive. The multinational UN police force is backed by the NATO-led KFOR military mission numbering about 20,000 troops.
“I am deeply shocked and dismayed at the unfortunate death of dedicated professionals who have come such a great distance to help Kosovo on its road to the future,” the province’s UN governor Harri Holkeri said in a statement.
UN Police Commissioner Stefan Feller said he was “saddened at this tragic incident” and promised a thorough investigation. There had been no visible sign of serious strain between Western and Arab or Christian and Muslim members of the peace mission. An international source said the spark that caused the shooting might turn out not to be connected with Iraq.
“This attack was organised,” a US policeman guarding the wounded at Mitrovica hospital told Reuters. “I’m sorry that none of the services was able to prevent it...” he added, without elaborating on who might have organised an attack, or why.
It was the second major jolt to the international peace mission in Kosovo in a month. In mid-March, Albanians rioted against the Serb minority after the drowning of three Albanian boys, setting fire to nearly 300 homes and two dozen churches.
The UN and NATO, which later said the riots had been orchestrated by Albanian extremists bent on expelling the remaining Serbs, said 19 people were killed, some shot in clashes with the peacekeepers.
The international community in Kosovo has for some time feared a backlash by Albanians determined to press their demand for independence five years after NATO drove Serb forces from the province. —Reuters