Sunday, August 28, 2005

In The News: Two Serbs shot dead in southern Kosovo

This is really sad news. The area around Strpce has seen periodic violence for a long time. A comparatively multi-ethnic town, it’s been the site of a number of killings in the last two years. The municipality in which I live has a large number of Serbs in and around it and there have been few, if any, acts of violence (with the exception of the March ’04 riots).

The foreign powers have outlined eight “Standards” which Kosova must meet if it wants to continue on to final status talks. Right now, the progress in reaching those standards are being carefully reviewed by international inspectors. One of the standards “freedoms of movement.” That is, the freedom of the population to move about freely without undue concern for their safety. These murders are a blow against freedom of movement and will certainly be held up as evidence that Kosova is not ready for additional autonomy.

Please pray for calm and for wisdom on the part of the national and international leaders here.

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Two Serbs were killed and two wounded on Saturday night when their car was shot at in southern Kosovo, a local political leader and police sources said.

Serbs have been the target of frequent attacks in Kosovo by the ethnic Albanian majority since the end of the 1998-99 war, which led to the withdrawal of Serb forces from the southern Serbian province and the arrival of a U.N. administration.

The four Serb men were fired on from another car shortly after 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) as they drove near the town of Strpce near Kosovo's southern border with Macedonia, town mayor Stanko Rakovljevic told Reuters.

"They were shot at from a Mercedes which had followed them," he said. The Serbs were driving a car with the old "PR licence plates denoting Pristina, rather than the U.N.-imposed "KS" plates used by the ethnic Albanian majority.

A police source confirmed the killings. The condition of the two wounded men was not immediately clear.

The killings are the worst since a Serb teenager was shot dead in June last year in the Serb enclave of Gracanica, for which two ethnic Albanians have been charged.

It comes as a U.N. envoy prepares to submit a report next month on whether Kosovo has made enough progress on democracy and minority rights for negotiations to begin on its "final status".

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