Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shoot-Out Leaves Four Unidentified Albanians Dead

Four unidentifed men (Albanians from Kosovo & Macedonia) were shot and killed near Vitina/Viti on 21 June under unknown circumstances.  Five people arrived at the Vitina police station in a vehicle that was bullet-ridden.  Three people were declared dead-on-arrival and a fourth died after being sent to the hospital.  As the shooting occurred in a village near the border with Macedonia there is speculation that the incident may be related to the recent crack-down on arms traficking in the area by ethnic Albanians.
The Kosovo Albanian man, Bajram Asllani, arrested last week for extradiction to the US to face terrorism charges has been released by an EULEX judge who ruled that Kosovo did not have a valid treaty for extradiction to the US.  While the prosecutor examines the judge’s decision and decided to appeal or not, Asllani will be required to report to the police twice a week.

MTCowgirl’s Interesting News/Commentary

Life at the Speed of Several WTFs a Minute

Traffic in Pristina is always a popular subject to blog about even more so after the declaration of independence when the Kosovo government promptly ripped up all major roads and brought traffic to a grinding, bumpy halt in all directions.  The newest WTF moment occurred on the Monday morning commute to work for most people.

The two-lane bridge to Mitrovica has been closed and is due to be tore down.  With Bill Clinton Boulevard ripped up and down to two lanes and all the traffic being diverted into that mess, most people who travel the 5-7kms to work were stuck in traffic for nearly two hours on Monday morning leading to a collective WTF moment for most of the international community.  Evidentally traffic planning does not exist or is not a particularly strong suit for the Ministry of Transportation.  In addition to the closure of the Mitrovica highway bridge, roadblocks have been placed on one of the roads forcing all traffic from downtown to divert into the road construction on Bill Clinton Boulevard and all traffic coming from FKP (Fushe Kosova/o Polje) to also divert into the nightmare!

Besides the impossible traffic situation, I had a WTF moment today when I read that the “Brotherhood and Unity” Monument near the Kosovo Government Building has been selected to be destroyed and replaced with a moment and square dedicated to Kosovo Albanian hero Adem Jashari!  The “Brotherhood and Unity” monument was dedicated in 1961 and is commonly referred to by the internationals as the “Fork Monument” as the three pillars representing Serb, Albanian, and Montenegrian peoples.  It seems that history or cultural preservation is not a consideration for the Kosovo government which has also approved a move to tear down the historic Union Hotel to pave way for a square dedicated to Ibrahim Rugova…a mere two-three blocks from the “Brotherhood and Unity” monument.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Update – Kosovo Terrorism Arrest

The man arrested yesterday in Mitrovica has been identified as Bajram Asllani, 29, who went by the nickname of “Ebu Hattab”.  According to the charges, Asllani is suspected of plotting attacks against Americans and non-supportive Muslims in Kosovo.  Asllani is accused of participating in a conspiracy including eight other defendants.  He was reportedly working with suspects in North Carolina to secure funds to purchase land in Kosovo to create a weapons storage area and training camp.
This is not the first terrorism charge for Asllani.  He was conviced by a Serbian court in absentia in 2009 and sentenced to eight years in confinement but being that he was in Kosovo, it appears that he never was extradited to serve his sentence.  Also in 2007, Asllani was placed under house arrest by Kosovo authorities.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kosovo & Murphy’s Law

Troy & I couldn’t handle the heat anymore and broke down, purchasing a 270 Euro air-conditioner wall unit for our flat.  Some friends called us wimps, told us we were getting soft because after all, we’ve lived in Las Vegas and Florida…but man, we have air-conditioning in both of those places when the temperatures spike over 80F!  Even Smokey, a long-haired Kosovo Shephard (that’s what I call him, in all actuality, he’s a mutt!), has been looking about as miserable as we’ve been feeling.  I suppose the coolest place in the house has been the shower stall in our bathroom because I walked in the other night to find him curled up sleeping inside the shower :)

So back to the story, we broke down and bought an air-conditioner!  Yes!!!  Since the installation required drilling into the walls, we asked our landlady if she would find someone to install the unit for us.  So she brought three workers that she trusts to inspect and then the next day install the air-con.  Good!  Yesterday, the three-man crew worked for a few hours in the evening to mount the unit on the wall and hook up the compressor outside.  Excellent.  The room cooled down fantastically the hour or so that we ran the air-con after they left.  As we climbed into bed in our new cool room, I noticed that there was water dripping from the bottom.  Suddenly as if the air-con knew I was watching, a cascade of water flowed down the wall and electrical cord straight into the power outlet!  Hesitating slightly (I didn’t want to elecrocute myself…oh, that’s another story to share!) I ended up unplugging the air-con.  After a quick inspection, we discovered that the workers had installed the drainage pipe so that the water must flow uphill in order to go drain outside…hmmm!  Needless to say, we have asked for the crew to come back tonight to fix the drainage so that it goes downhill and outside :)

The whole thing about worrying about getting electrocuted reminds me of a recent conversation with friends about the daily police reports on activities and occurences in Kosovo.  There seems to be a rash of electrocutions while bathing lately.  According to the reports, a short in the electrical wiring of the water heaters goes through the water tank and pipes to the shower and eventually showers electricity-laden water on the person taking the shower.  How freaky is that?!  Before we were just worried about the landlords installing the tanks inside the shower stalls but now we have to wonder if the electricity will just flow with the water?!  Yikes!

Kosovo Makes Terrorism Related Arrest

The Kosovo Police arrested a Kosovo Albanian man in the Mitrovica region today upon the request of the United States in coordination with EULEX Justice.  The unidentified suspect is wanted for extradition to the US to stand trial in North Carolina for two charges of “the provision of material support or resources to terrorists” and “support for terrorism and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kurti Found Guilty of Obstructing Official Persons – Other Charges Dropped

Albin Kurti was found guilty of obstructing official persons and sentenced to nine months but was immediately released for time already served (jail and house arrest following the February 2007 riots).  The other charges of participating in a crowd committing criminal acts and inciting violence were dropped.  Kurti acted as his own lawyer and told the court that he did not recognize them.  The panel of judges was made up of one local judge and two international EULEX judges.

TheVetevendosje political platform has started emerging following his announcement about running for the 2011 parliamentary elections which largely has been overshadowed by his arrest and accusations of police brutality by the KPS.  Vetevendosje appears to be running on a campaign of establishing what has been referred to as “Greater Albania” and the annulment of the Ahtisaari Package for Kosovo.

The activities of human traffickers in Kosovo has come under scrutiny again following a report by the US Department of State which termed Kosovo as a “center for human trafficking“.  The report focuses on women trafficked from Eastern Europe for prostitution and Roma children who are trafficked for begging.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot!

It has become beyond hot in Kosovo these days with temperatures in the high-80′s to low-90′s F.  While the temperatures are bearable in other locales, one fact that makes Kosovo a bit unbearable during the summertime is the lack of air-conditioning.  Most apartments and many restaurants lack any type of air-conditioning which makes the dog days of summer pretty miserable.  Even Smokey has been looking so miserable that we have contemplated shaving him with our clippers to give him some small bit of relief!

In addition to the temperature outside, the political climate has been heating up.  Of course the continuing saga of corruption in the Thaci government goes on but also yesterday KPS arrested Vetevendosje leader, Albin Kurti, whose trial was postponed last month to today.  Vetevendosje has claimed police brutality (as usual) and went out in search of vehicles to overturn (also normal).  A total of 2 EULEX vehicles and 4 KPS vehicles suffered damage.  Surprisingly after refusing to engage in politics in the past, Kurti announced that his Vetevendosje party will run in the 2011 elections for parliment which should prove to be interesting campaign to watch to say the least (I wonder if their rallies will include turning over vehicles and vandalizing property with spraypaint?!)  This announcement coupled with the arrest of Kurti has lead to accusations that the arrest was politically motivated…but in all actuality, Kurti has so far failed to appear in court since the spring and was due to appear in court in the morning and also had an outstanding arrest warrant which was failed to be carried out earlier…so is it really politics or just KPS finally getting their act together and executing an arrest warrant within 48 hours of a court hearing?

How about some interesting news/commentary articles on Kosovo???

MTCowgirl’s Interesting News/Commentary