"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, April 17, 2004

there must be something in the water over there


3 U.N. police die in Kosovo jail shootout


- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Nebojsa Markovic



April 17, 2004 | KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) -- A Jordanian policeman opened fire on a group of international U.N. police in Kosovo on Saturday, killing two Americans before he was killed when officers returned fire. Ten American officers and an Austrian were wounded.

The shootout erupted when a group correctional officers -- 21 Americans, two Turks and an Austrian -- were leaving the detention center after a day of training. They came under fire from at least one of a group of Jordanians on guard at the prison, said Neeraj Singh, a U.N. spokesman.

The officers shot back in a gunbattle that lasted about 10 minutes. It was not immediately clear what prompted the Jordanian to shoot.

"As far as we know, there was no communication between the officer who fired and the group of victims," Singh said, adding that investigators looking into the incident were questioning four Jordanian officers.

The Jordanian government expressed regret for the incident in a statement and said it also was investigating the shooting, Jordan's official Petra agency reported. The statement identified the Jordanian officer as Ahmed Mustafa Ibrahim Ali.

U.N. and local police officers sealed off the yard of the detention center, took pictures and marked the bullet cartridges with numbers. The body of a police officer, covered with what looked like a dark blue jacket, lay for hours in the yard of the prison compound.

One witness, a 50-year-old woman who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she heard the shooting, ran to her balcony overlooking the prison yard and saw one officer shooting and another hiding.

Another witness who also gave only his age, 31, said he was at a nearby park when he heard the shooting and later heard American officers yelling, "Drop the gun! Drop the gun!"

"It is absolutely too early to draw any conclusions with regard to what happened there," the head of the U.N. police, Stefan Feller, told Associated Press Television News after visiting the site. He called the shootout a "terrible incident."

Milan Ivanovic, a doctor at the hospital in Kosovska Mitrovica, told AP that five American officers and one Austrian officer were being treated. It was not immediately clear where the other wounded were being treated, or what their nationalities were.

"Their wounds are predominantly in the chest and abdomen," Ivanovic said. "They were caused by firearms and possibly explosive devices."

Kosovska Mitrovica has long been the scene of violence between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, including riots that broke out a month ago, killing 19 and injuring 900.

Ethnic Albanians live on the southern side of the Ibar River in the divided city, and Serbs live in the north. Kosovska Mitrovica is located 25 miles from the provincial capital, Pristina.

Kosovo became a U.N. protectorate in 1999, after NATO launched a 78-day air war to stop Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic from cracking down on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

There are some 3,500 U.N. police officers serving in Kosovo alongside a 6,000-strong local force.

The top U.N. official in Kosovo, Harri Holkeri, seemed stunned at the shooting incident, which came as the mission is still grappling with last month's violence.

"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 future," he said.

No comments: