Kosovo

Pro-Isis Bosnia Salafi Leader Bilal Bosnic ‘Among 16 Detained in Police Sweep’

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By Gianluca Mezzofiore September 3, 2014 11:27 BST

Bilal Bosnic

Bilal Bosnic in his pro-Isis speech in northern Bosnia

Bosnian police have detained 16 people on allegations of funding terrorist activities, recruiting and fighting for the Islamic State (known as Isis) militants in Syria and Iraq.

Among the arrested is Bilal Bosnic, the leader of the Salafi movement in Bosnia Herzegovina who recently called young Muslims to join the ranks of Isis, Avaz news site reported.

The security sweep was made in 17 raids across the Balkan country, according to the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA). “The suspects are connected to financing, organising and recruiting Bosnian citizens to depart for Syria and Iraq, and taking part in armed conflicts in Syria and Iraq, fighting on the side of radical terrorist groups and organisations,” the police statement said.

Hundreds of Muslims from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia are reported to have gone to pursue jihad in Syria and Iraq.

At the end of July, a leading Albanian jihadist fighting in Syria posted photos of himself on social media in which he beheads a young man who he claims was a spy. A recent IS video showed a Kosovo jihadist along with other Balkans fighters destroying their passports after vowing to extend the caliphate to Rome and Spain. Read the rest of this entry »

Ireland and Kosovo

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1922 2/6 value King George V stamp overprinted...
1922 2/6 value King George V stamp overprinted Saorstát Éireann 1922 for use in the newly independent Irish Free State (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elements of the Irish-English settlement may offer a model for how a Kosovar-Serbia deal might be made, including recognition that the creation of an ethnic state cannot proceed peacefully on the back of forcing an ethnic minority to join.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

The history of Ireland presents interesting points of similarity with that of Serbia and Kosovo, as well as clear differences.

At the dawn of history, Ireland was a land of Celtic tribes. It was one of the first nations to be converted to Christianity in the 5th century. The Celts struggled to maintain their existence through waves of invasions by Vikings, Normans and English. The history of the Irish from the 12th Century to the last was one of reaction to foreign rule and the struggle to preserve their Catholic faith.  The Irish sometimes made their accommodations with their foreign rulers but never abandoned the quest to regain independence.  In 1916, in the Easter Rising, the Irish rose again against English rule. The small band of rebels in Dublin didn’t expect a military victory but to reaffirm the Irish demand for independence. They were defeated in six days. But thanks to the British overreaction – they executed all the leaders and imprisoned many – the Irish people rallied around the nationalist cause and supported a guerrilla war that finally led the UK to accept a treaty in 1921.  It recognized the independence of the Irish Free State.

The British, however, forced the Irish to accept a deal which kept Ireland within the British Commonwealth and under the British Crown. It also allowed the Protestant majority in the northern six counties to opt to remain part of the United Kingdom. Ireland only declared itself a sovereign state in 1937 and a republic in 1949. It was only in 1999 that the Republic of Ireland gave up its claim on the north. Read the rest of this entry »

Sudan – a ‘Kosovo’ approach to Abyei and Nuba?

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Map of Abyei Area
Map of Abyei Area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted on March 22nd, 2012 While the Kosovo-Serbia case is fundamentally different from that of Sudan<, the experience of the Serbian enclaves in Kosovo is not so dissimilar to the situation of the African enclaves in southern Sudan and may indeed serve as a model for dealing with Abyei and Nuba.

By Gerard M. Gallucci The agreed independence of South Sudan achieved last July under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 was a great accomplishment. It is rare for the leadership of any country to agree to its dismemberment. Of course, the agreement came after decades of on-and-off war in which the Khartoum government used often brutal means to resist its opponents. Nevertheless, the Sudanese government lived up to the terms of the agreement and president al-Bashir even attended the Independence Day celebrations in Juba. War now threatens again, however, because the border is not fixed, with the status of two enclaves still in Sudan at the root of the problem. Accepting the loss of the south, the Sudanese government refuses to allow other parts of the country to break away. It unleashed a brutal war against the non-Arab tribes of Darfur in 2003 to prevent the rebels there from trying to duplicate the SPLM’s (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) success in the south. It also refused to allow a 2011 referendum in the border area of Abyei (part of what Khartoum calls South Kordofan) as called for by the CPA. Sudanese forces attacked populations there and in the Nuba Mountains to signal its refusal to allow them to choose joining the south and to chase away the non-Arabs there so that others could take their place. This effort to “reengineer” the ethnic balance followed the same pattern used in Darfur.
The people of Abyei and Nuba are majority African tribes – mostly Dinka in Abyei and Dinka-speaking in Nuba. They share cultural affinities with the people of South Sudan and participated in the struggle with the SPLM. The Sudanese government’s actions – in these areas and in possibly supporting rebels within South Sudan as leverage – are clearly meant to prevent further territorial losses. Relations between Sudan and South Sudan have deteriorated to the point of Juba stopping the pumping of oil for transport north and growing tensions along the border, with each accusing the other of supporting rebels against it.The status of what can be termed the “African enclaves” north of the border is the root issue between Khartoum and Juba. Oil is a complicating factor as much of it went south with independence. Abyei also has remaining reserves and the pipeline north passes through it. The chief factor, however, is the Sudanese leadership’s refusal to allow further defections as all areas outside of Khartoum itself have at least simmering separatist tendencies. 

While the situation of Kosovo and Serbia is fundamentally different from Sudan, the experience of the Serbian enclaves in Kosovo is not so dissimilar to the situations of the African enclaves in southern Sudan. With the prospect of independence for Kosovo looming in 2005, the UN Secretary General appointed former Finish President Martti Ahtisaari as his special envoy for the future status of Kosovo. Ahtisaari sought to facilitate an agreement between Serbia and the Kosovo Albanian leadership in Kosovo on that status but the two sides disagreed fundamentally. The Kosovo Albanians demanded independence and Belgrade refused. In the course of the discussions, Ahtisaari had elaborated a plan that would govern a multi-ethnic Kosovo with an Albanian majority but with several Serbian enclaves. When the UN Security Council failed to agree on the plan, the Western supporters of Kosovo independence decided that it should declare independence anyway – in March 2008 – and implement the Ahtisaari Plan with EU and US supervision.The Ahtisaari Plan provided for Kosovo Serb municipalities with important elements of self-rule in health, education and social issues, plus a role in choosing the local police chief. These municipalities would have the right to their own funding, block grants from central government and funding from Belgrade. They could form associations with other municipalities, including those in Serbia. Dual citizenship was also an option. The intent was clear – to allow Serbs in these municipalities to live in two worlds at once, in both Kosovo and Serbia. All of this was in the context, however, of these enclaves being part of the sovereign state of Kosovo and participating in the central government in Pristina.

Perhaps the treatment of the Serbian enclaves in Kosovo might serve as a model for dealing with Abyei and Nuba? A first principle might be to accept that borders should not be further altered, and that the two areas would remain part of the sovereign state of Sudan. &nbsp;Khartoum, however, would for its part accept that the two enclaves would have self-rule in agreed areas, with the right to maintain formal linkages to South Sudan in those areas. People living in Abyei and the Nuba Mountains would be Sudanese but be functionally integrated into South Sudan as well in those defined ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Kosovo – referendum, barricades and EU plans

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Belgrade Annual Session 2011
Belgrade Annual Session 2011 (Photo credit: oscepa)
Posted on February 13th, 2012 in the category Kosovo by TransConflict

Ahead of a referendum in the north on attitudes towards Pristina, there are growing signs that a number of actors – particularly KFOR and the EU – are beginning to grasp the realities of the north, including the need to treat the local leaders as legitimate interlocutors.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

The snows are piled deep throughout the Balkans leaving many stranded and dealing with the cold and electricity shortages. Scores have died including an entire family – minus a young survivor – in an avalanche in southern Kosovo.  Kosovo issues, however, seem not to be taking any winter leave, with a vote due this week in the north on attitudes towards Pristina, continued focus on the Kosovo Serb barricades and EU consideration of the continued role of EULEX.

The northern Kosovo Serbs says that they are ready for their “referendum” to be held February 14-15. It will reportedly ask for a “yes” or “no” response to a single question – “do you accept the institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo?” Much has been made of this vote – essentially a poll unlikely to produce much surprise and with no legal or operational result. Now, the UN has jumped into the fray – reportedly saying the vote is contrary to law and that UNMIK will have no role in it. The Kosovo police, however, plan no special measures and KFOR’s concerns seem more about the vote provoking violence against Kosovo Serbs south of the Ibar.

Against the general backdrop of EU and German pressures on Belgrade over Kosovo, the International Crisis Group braved the snow and cold to travel through the north to look at the barricades there. ICG found official crossing points open but unused, with travel continuing across the boundary through alternative routes. ICG’s conclusion: “Trying to use issues like freedom of movement – or the rule of law – as tools to change locals’ minds about sovereignty issues, rather than as ends in themselves, just damages the tool. The dispute isn’t a technicality and cannot be resolved as though it were.”

Meanwhile, the Pristina newspaper Zëri reports that UNMIK appears to have negotiated a “gentleman’s agreement” to allow EULEX access through the barricades. UNMIK reportedly told the paper that it was “actively engaged” in discussing “unconditional freedom of movement” in the north with “northern Serbs, as well as officials in Belgrade” alongside KFOR and EULEX efforts to do the same. No details but perhaps the “gentleman’s agreement” allows EULEX to travel on the assumption they would not be conveying Kosovo Customs to the boundary crossings? In its trip report, however, ICG reported that the northerners are still watching the roads.

There is further reporting on the EU’s plans for “reformatting” the EULEX mission later this year “taking into account the progress made by Kosovo authorities in the rule of law and the needs of changing the mission.” This would be in-line with plans announced by the Quint last month to move toward ending “supervised independence” of Kosovo. A spokesman for prime minister Thaci told Balkan Insight that “we expect that in regions like in Mitrovica and Prizren, no EULEX police officers will be stationed due to the good performance of the police…[and] the same goes for customs.” Such changes would seem to take EULEX out of its peacekeeping role in the north – where it has taken the UN’s place on crucial rule of law issues including the police, courts and customs. Read the rest of this entry »

Kosovo’s Former Bank Governor Cleared Of Corruption Charges

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Police escort former Kosovo Central Bank Governor Hashim Rexhepi (second left) after his arrest in Pristina last year.

The European Union’s mission in Kosovo has said that the former governor of Kosovo’s central bank has been cleared of corruption charges, more than a year after the accusations cost him his job.

The EU’s police and justice mission in Kosovo, EULEX, said a judge had dismissed all five counts against Hashim Rexhepi.

The charges had included abuse of office and fraud. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Envoy Warns Of Escalating Kosovo Tensions

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DownloadNovember 30, 2011

Ethnic composition of Kosovo in 2005 according...
Image via Wikipedia

The head of the United Nations mission in Kosovo has warned that tensions in the ethnic Serb-dominated northern part of the territory are so high now that serious violence could erupt at any time.

UN Kosovo mission chief Farid Zarif spoke to the UN Security Council on November 29 — one day after clashes between ethnic Serbs and NATO-led peacekeepers left 30 NATO soldiers and some 100 Serbs injured.

The violence occurred as NATO sought to remove roadblocks set up by the Serbs.

The UN envoy described the northern part of Kosovo, where Serbs reject rule by Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians, as “extremely volatile.”

He said the “combined factors of frustration, fear, and mistrust could easily and quickly provide the spark that could ignite violence.”

The envoy said the heightened tensions were partly caused by the politics of elections in Serbia due next spring, as well as what he called the “current political dynamics” of the ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo government. Read the rest of this entry »

Facing far right extremism in Serbia

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Policing the pride parade

Reducing the threat of far right extremism – particularly its manifestation through terrorist means – involves findinga delicate balance between under-reacting and over-reacting; between giving tacit encouragement and sparking its escalation.

By Vladimir Ninkovic

Anders Behring Breivik reminded us once again that terrorism is an omnipresent threat that can strike in both rich and poor countries alike. A terrorist can be a man or woman, an engineer or a shepherd, a psychopath or mentally sane person. It is, therefore, very difficult to speak about the conditions and environments that facilitate the appearance of terrorism; whilst its erratic dynamics do not help us predict the time and place of the next terrorist attack.

Three years in a row, far-right organizations – together with the most conservative wing of the Serbian Orthodox Church and groups of football fans – have used threats of violence and de facto civil war to create a state of fear prior to the Pride Parade. In 2009 and 2011 they were successful enough to force the police and government to cancel the event at the last moment; whilst in 2010 – the only time it was held – the centre of Belgrade was wrecked by those who saw the Parade parade as an anti-Serb, anti-Orthodox and almost Satanic procession. Members of the LGBT and Roma communities, plus foreign citizens, have also been physically attacked several times in last few months.

Apart from football hooligans, the most prominent organizations which endorsed and participated in these events are generally understood to belong to the far right, such as the clerical-fascist ‘Obraz’, the chauvinist-nationalist ‘SNP Nasi 1389′ and the reactionary movement ‘Dveri’. Disconcertingly, such activities were de facto backed-up by the belligerent statements of certain politicians and church hierarchs. Read the rest of this entry »