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03/12/2016

Kosovo deplores ‘terrorist’ attacks over Montenegro border deal

Enlargement

Kosovo deplores ‘terrorist’ attacks over Montenegro border deal

A graffiti, which reads: 'Kosovo to Qakorr' (regarding demarcation of the border with Montenegro), is pictured at a crossroad in the village of Haxaj, Peja, in Kosovo, near the border with Montenegro, 28 August. [Reuters]

Kosovo police said yesterday (30 August) they have detained six opposition supporters on suspicion of involvement in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on parliament.

Police and prosecutors said in a joint statement that the five men and one woman have been accused of planning and committing the 4 August attack that damaged the building’s exterior but caused no casualties. Those detained are members or supporters of the opposition Self-Determination movement.

The statement said police seized several firearms and ammunition during Tuesday’s detention operation, and all six people will remain in custody pending a judge’s decision this week on whether to charge them.

In a press release published yesterday, the President of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi called the attack “terrorist”, adding that such form of political action is “unacceptable and intolerable”.

The 4 August attack was one of many that have rocked Kosovo over the government’s agreement with neighbouring Montenegro determining their common border. Opposition parties and even some members of the governing coalition are vehemently against the deal, arguing it cedes territory to Montenegro, but the government rejects this.

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In a separate incident, a grenade was thrown late on Sunday into the Pristina backyard of Mentor Shala, general director of Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK).

On the next day, a shadowy activist group in Kosovo claimed responsibility Monday for an attack on the home of Kosovo’s public broadcast chief, in protest over the controversial border deal.

The incident came six days after another grenade was thrown in the courtyard of the RTK’s headquarters, causing material damage.

Responsibility for both attacks was claimed by a group called “Rugovasit”, a term for inhabitants of the Rugova mountains at the disputed border with Montenegro.

In an emailed statement to media, Rugovasit said the RTK under Shala had sided with the government and overlooked the opposition because it “speaks out against the demarcation”.

An agreement on the border is crucial to Kosovo’s bid to win visa-free travel in the EU and further integration with the bloc. But the proposed deal has sparked tension and protests both in and outside parliament in recent months.

International press freedom watchdogs warn that journalists and media outlets in Kosovo are often threatened over their investigative reporting, but there have been no direct armed attacks against them before.

The Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday condemned the attack on Mentor Shala and called on authorities to protect him in light of continuing threats to his life.

“If those who have threatened and tried to intimidate Shala get away with it, journalists will likely be faced with further violence,” CPJ stated.