Kosovo says gunmen from Serbia are planning more attacks

By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Saturday that armed men supported by Serbian security agencies were being trained to launch new attacks in his country after a September assault which left four dead. Serbia denied any such plan.

On September 24, a group of 80 armed men attacked Kosovo police in the quiet village of Banjska near the border with Serbia, leaving one police officer and three gunmen dead.

Speaking at a news conference, Kurti said Milan Radoicic, a top Kosovo Serb politician who admitted taking part in the September gun battle, was planning further attacks.

“He is now continuing preparations for other attacks in our country…he is holding regular meetings with senior officials of the Serbian secret service, BIA.”

Petar Petkovic, head of Serbia’s government office for Kosovo, said Kurti’s allegation was false.

“It is an absolute lie that Belgrade is preparing an attack,” he said in a statement.

Kosovo’s prosecution has issued arrest warrants for Radoicic and 30 others believed to be hiding in Serbia, which denied earlier allegations from Kosovo that it provided financial and practical support to Radoicic and his group.

Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a guerrilla uprising and a 1999 NATO intervention.

Around five percent of the population are ethnic Serbs, of which half live in the north and refuse to recognize Kosovo independence and see Belgrade as their capital. They have often clashed with Kosovo police and international peacekeepers.

NATO has sent 1,000 extra troops to the region, bringing its presence there to 4,500 peacekeepers from 27 countries.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina, additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade; editing by Philippa Fletcher)