Terrorists commander held by KFOR, 3 released

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, Aug 26, 2000 -- (AFP) A senior member of an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group operating in Serbia has been detained by Kosovo's KFOR peacekeeping force, a KFOR spokesman said Friday.

Shefket Musliu is a self-styled "commander" in the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB), a rebel group based just inside Serbia fighting Yugoslav security forces in the Presevo Valley area, home to some 70,000 ethnic Albanians.

He was arrested with three UCPMB fighters on Sunday by KFOR and UN police officers in the village of Novo Selo, located in southeastern Kosovo on its boundary with Serbia, near the Presevo Valley area.

All four were questioned about the August 12 disappearance of two Serbs, but UN police did not bring charges against them. The three UCPMB fighters were to be released Friday.

The acting commander of KFOR, Major General Ken Bowra, on Friday ordered that Musliu not be released from the US military base where he is being held, KFOR spokesman Major Scott Slaten said.

"Musliu is being investigated for his possible role in past acts of violence, and the KFOR commander has the authority and obligation to extend the detention of individuals past the standard 72 hours if he believes the individual continues to pose a threat to a safe and secure environment in Kosovo," Slaten said.

Slaten said Bowra's authority came from UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which tasked KFOR with ensuring security in Kosovo, a Yugoslav province which has been governed by the United Nations since June last year.

Two Serbs have been missing in the area around Kamenice, six miles (10 kilometers) from Novo Selo, since August 12, when they set off on a tractor towards an ethnic Albanian area to buy petrol.

Serbs have regularly been the victims of ethnic violence in Kosovo since a NATO air campaign brought an end to a civil war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Belgrade's forces, and KFOR moved into the province.

On Friday last week, 10 Kosovo Serb children were injured when unidentified attackers threw hand grenades into a basketball court from a passing car.

The Presevo Valley area of southern Serbia has, like Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian majority population. The UCPMB, which is thought to be linked to separatist groups in Kosovo, has vowed to fight for the independence of the region, which it dubs "Eastern Kosovo".

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