Ivo Skoric on 27 Jun 2000 05:40:38 -0000

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<nettime> (Fwd) FWD: KOSOVO-REBELS (fwd)

Let's face it: the world news would really be boring without wars. 
So, somebody has to help media get their footage. NATO officials 
hope it is not Americans (!) who are doing it. Alternative answers 
are not in sight. New crisis, however, is.


------- Forwarded Message Follows -------

DOBROSIN, Serbia - Across the demarcation line of
Kosovo's boundary with Serbia, in the rolling
hayfields and oak forests of southern Serbia's Presevo
valley, ethnic Albanian rebels are digging in to their
bunkers, preparing their weapons, and waiting for the
Serbs to attack.

British military and intelligence sources say that the
3rd Yugoslav Army, based in and around the Presevo
valley, are preparing to attack trench positions
around villages occupied by ethnic Albanian rebels
from the U.C.P.M.B.

Translated, this means 'Liberation Army of Presevo,
Medvedja and Bujanovac,' three towns in this area of
southern Serbia which contains around 70,000

Up to thirty Serbian MBTs (Main Battle Tanks) as well
as up to 500 Yugoslav Army soldiers and Special
Interior Ministry Police, or MUP, have reinforced
positions in around Bujanovac and Presevo in the last
two weeks, say British defence sources.

"These rebel guys have got a pretty good trench system
dug around this village alone," said Captain Tom
Hairgrove, an Engineer officer from Task Force 136 of
the US 1st Infantry Division, who commands 'Outpost
Sapper,' the dug-in American position that is NATO's
last line of defence on the Kosovo-Serbia boundary.

Capt.Hairgrove's position looks down directly over the
village of Dobrosin, which lies 500 metres across the
Kosovo boundary inside Serbia, and which is the
headquarters of the UCPMB, an organisation thought by
NATO officials to contain 150-200 fighting men.

 >From where he stands, he can see the black-uniformed
fighters digging trenches, training, changing guard,
and keeping watch. For the moment, all is quiet,
although on Wednesday in the village of Bujanovac,
six kilometres away, two explosions wounded one Serb
policeman and one Serb security guard.

"There have been three or four incidents of gunfights
between the UCPMB and Serb police in the last week in
the valley," says Capt.Hairgrove. "There's training
going on in the hills above us," he says, "and there's
been shooting coming from the east, but it's quiet for
the most part."

Through the barbed-wire of Outpost Sapper, down the
hill past the fields of wheat and runner-beans, past
the small cemetery, and you're in Dobrosin. Unlike the
rest of Kosovo, there are no destroyed buildings here.

Children play in the dusty streets; pats of cow-dung
lie in the ditches. This is farming country.

And rebel territory. From behind the mosque, from
around a small corner, appears a fighter or two. They
wear a mixture of German, French, American and English
uniforms, speak Albanian, English, German, some
French. Their weapons, mostly Kalashnikov variants,
are uniformly spotless; on their left shoulders they
wear the orange and red UCPMB flash.

These are not the self-help village defence groups
that made up the backbone of the now-demilitarised
Kosovo Liberation Army; these are people who know how
to soldier.

"What we're trying to work out now," says one senior
NATO official in Pristina, "is who's been making these
guys what they are. We're hoping it's not the

The UCPMB, a gathering of ex-KLA fighters and local
men who had served in armies elsewhere, were formed in
late January this year as a reaction to increasing
Serb oppression of ethnic Albanians in the area. They
have consistently claimed links with US NATO troops.

"There is undoubtedly some kind of hand guiding them
from above," says Captain Hairgrove.

NATO has consistently condemned the presence of the
UCPMB in the Presevo valley, saying that they
contribute massively to regional instability, and avow
to clamp down on any movement of weapons through
Kosovo to the rebels.

British NATO peacekeepers unearthed a massive
arms-cache in the Drenica valley of central Kosovo
this week: 67 tons of small-arms ammunition, more than
20,000 grenades, and enough anti-tank rockets to
destroy 900-1,000 tanks, according to NATO spokesman
Major Scott Slaten.

"I bet you stuff being used by the UCPMB is coming
from places like the Drenica," Britain's senior
commander in Kosovo, Brigadier Richard Shirreff, said
this week.

The internationally-agreed Military Technical
Agreement which mandated NATO's entry into Kosovo last
June established a five kilometre-wide Ground Safety
Zone along Kosovo's boundary with Serbia. Only local
Serb police are allowed within this buffer-zone, and
no Serb aircraft or helicopters can overfly it.

In reality, as was proved four weeks ago when the
UCPMB and Serb forces exchanged between 60-80 mortar
rounds and anti-tank rockets over a two-day period,
inside the GSZ, the agreement means little.

What it does dictate, though, is how NATO could or
couldn't react if Serb forces decided to attack
villages in the region to wipeout the UCPMB and push
ethnic Albanians into Kosovo.

The Americans have repeatedly said they'd only go into
the GSZ to prevent "atrocities" being committed.

"We'd go into the GSZ if there was a current and
relevant threat, if the situation required us to go
in," says Captain Johnny Williamson, from the Royal
Scots Dragoon Guards, standing on the Kosovan-Serb
boundary near the town of Podujevo.

Two kilometres across the GSZ from Dobrosin, there are
the Serb positions. It's hard to gauge their immediate

"In the town of Presevo," says one Albanian man who
lives in the town seven kilometres inside Serbia, and
who asked to be called Sami, "Serbs are clamping down
on Albanians. There are tanks gathered outside the
town, trees and bushes being cut down along the sides
of the roads to prevent ambushes, and troops
everywhere.  It's like Kosovo during the war."

For the moment, the rebels inside Dobrosin aren't
saying what they're up to. They're keeping mum, not
talking to the media, chasing them out of Dobrosin,
sometimes at gunpoint.

"It's only a matter of time," says one NATO official.
"The Serbs now know where the rebel positions are, and
once they've decided they've had enough of these guys,
who are, let's face it, illegal, they'll go in and get
rid of them."


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