Head of KLA veterans organization threatens monks and KFOR
Decani, August 16, 2005
The head of the Kosovo Liberation Army veterans organization in the regions of Decane and Pec, colonel Avdyl Mushkolaj, directed an open threat to the monks of Visoki Decani Monastery and members of Italian KFOR who provide protection for the monastery on the pages of the Pristina Albanian language daily "Epoka e Re".
"We are addressing the criminals who hide behind the black drapes of the monastery, as well as both KFOR and the UNMIK administration, to remove the control checkpoints because the anger of the people is increasing with each day and they will no longer tolerate this. What happened to the head of the war veterans organization Avdyl Mushkolaj must not be repeated; otherwise, war invalids, the families of martyrs and KLA veterans will react strongly, using our well-known methods."
The text goes on to say that colonel Mushkolaj is convinced that "this behavior by KFOR is connected to the criminals who hide behind the masks of monks. These criminals who live in the monastery killed innocent Albanians, and now together with KFOR and the UNMIK administration, they are harassing the people who pass there without reason."
The immediate cause of Mushkolaj's public address in the daily "Epoka e Re" was a recent incident at a control checkpoint not far from the monastery, where the former KLA member was stopped by Italian KFOR soldiers who carried out routine controls. According to statements by KFOR representatives, Mushkolaj's accusations that the soldiers harassed him are not true since it is a common practice throughout the Province for KFOR to regularly control vehicles for the safety of all citizens. At this control checkpoint and others throughout Kosovo, members of KFOR and police are confiscating illegal weapons and drugs almost every day.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that colonel Mushkolaj has publicly and with open hatred spoken about the monastery of Visoki Decani and international representatives in the region. According to statements by a number of international officials, Mushkolaj publicly calls the monks criminals and openly supports the idea that KFOR should leave Kosovo as soon as possible. Mushkolaj is the leader of a very radical wing of former KLA members that does not shrink from an eventual clash with NATO forces. However, according to the information from the ground his views and particularly methods do not seem to be shared by majority of people.
In the opinion of representatives of UN police in Kosovo who wish to remain anonymous, international security officials have information that Avdyl Mushkolaj and his fighters are most probably behind three armed attacks to date on the monastery of Visoki Decani (in February and June 2000 and March 2004) and that he is a serious threat to peace and security in this part of Kosovo. After last year's March riots and the destruction of UNMIK vehicles in Decani, Mushkolaj was arrested by UNMIK police with assistance of KFOR in an operation involving helicopter support. However, he was soon released from prison because of the lack of witnesses bold enough to testify at the court. Although he was born in this region and lives in Kosovo Mushkolaj is also an Austrian citizen, which he thinks gives him an added advantage to act regardless of the law.
Article from Pristina Albanian language daily "Epoka e Re" (Aug. 15, 2005)
According to a recent statement by the commander of KFOR Multinational Brigade South-West, General Norbert Stier, KFOR will keep control checkpoints near the monasteries of the Pec Patriarchate and Visoki Decani because it is the firm position of the peacekeeping forces that Christian religious sites in Kosovo, which were severely attacked in last year's riots, must be protected. General Stier explained at a press conference that security near important cultural monuments is not there because of peaceful citizens who respect civilizational values but because of those who might use violence to achieve their goals. The German general explained that similar security standards exist today throughout the Western world near important sites. He cited the example of the Vatican, among others, where one cannot enter St. Peter's Basilica without passing through security controls and scanners.
Bishop Teodosije, the Abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery and his deputy, Fr. Sava, have repeatedly emphasized in contacts with local Albanian representatives that the KFOR presence around the monastery is a guarantee that is important not only for the monks but also for all residents of Decani municipality. KFOR ensures that irresponsible persons will not use violence against the monastery and thus inflict shame on the people of this region, who respected this holy shrine in the past and even protected it when needed. Nazmi Selmanaj (AAK), the president of Decani Monastery, publicly praised the monastery two months ago at a gathering in the municipal building, mentioning the positive role the monastery played during the war when the monks risked their own lives to deliver humanitarian aid to suffering Albanians and even sheltered more than a hundred Albanian women, children and elderly in the monastery to protect them during the most difficult times. These humanitarian activities by the Decani monks were regularly reported by world media, including the BBC, the New York Times and others*.
The administration of Visoki Decani Monastery issued an appeal to all citizens to show understanding and respect toward religious sites and KFOR forces who came to Kosovo to ensure a peaceful and dignified life for all. Respect for security officials and their work is one of the chief indicators of a truly democratic society based on law and order, the monastery said in a communiquÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©.http://www.kosovo.com/news/archive/2005/August_16/3.html