Terror gripped a small village in northern Kosovo last Sunday, sparking renewed tensions in a restive part of the country.
At least 30 armed attackers blocked a road in the ethnically Serb dominated village of Banjska in northern Kosovo and then stormed an Orthodox monastery, launching intense gun battles throughout the village and leaving three of the gunmen dead.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said one police officer was killed, and two others were wounded in the siege. After police initially repelled the attack, the assailants, dressed in military gear and wearing face masks, barricaded themselves in a Serbian Orthodox monastery where monks and pilgrims were allegedly held hostage.
The skirmish started in the early morning hours on Sunday when two trucks without license plates blocked a bridge leading to Banjska. Police arrived and were met with a barrage of heavy weapons fire,
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Overall, Kosovo police confiscated one heavy armored vehicle, 24 SUV vehicles, 29 anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 150 explosive dynamites, 142 mortar shells, 75 hand grenades, seven rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and eight anti-tank mines, and more, according to Kosovo’s Minister of Internal Affairs Xhelal Sveçla and Police Director Gazmend Hoxha.
Prime Minister Kurti placed the blame directly at Serbia, saying organized criminal groups with political, financial and logistical support from official Belgrade attacked the country.
“There is no doubt that Belgrade is fully responsible for systematically inciting and sponsoring violence against Kosovo’s democratic institutions,” Kosovo’s ambassador to the U.S., Ilir Dugolli, told Fox News Digital.
Reports in local Kosovo media alleged that Russia’s Wagner Group may have played a role in the attack. KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping mission operating in Kosovo since 1999, previously rejected the notion that Wagner units were in the country and news reports making such claims are generally unverified or misinformation. Ambassador Dugolli said that while the allegation cannot be ruled out, it’s clear that the assailants have connections to Belgrade.
“Preliminary intelligence analysis suggests that the persons involved in the deadly clash near the village of Banská in northern Kosovo on Sept. 24, were connected to Serbian special forces and Russian military intelligence,” Rebekah Koffler, president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, told Fox News Digital. “The attackers appeared professionally trained and some of them spoke Serbian and Russian. While the presence of Wagner mercenaries could not be confirmed, I don’t rule out the possibility of their participation in these recent events.”
Koffler also warned about Russian interference, “Neither Russia, nor Serbia, who are staunch allies, recognize Kosovo independence. It is their long-term goal to reverse the situation. There are indications that Russia and Serbia are working together to spark another mass Serb-Albanian conflict, in order to create justification for the deployment of Serbian forces to ensure “peace and stability.”
Koffler concluded, “Covert destabilization operations conducted by mercenary groups such as Wagner is a long-standing standard tradecraft used by Putin when he needs the hand of the Russian government hidden. It would be consistent with the Russian doctrine of lateral escalation if Putin helped Vucic ran a destabilization campaign in Kosovo to distract Washington and NATO forces from Ukraine. What Putin fears most is the deployment of NATO forces into the theater in Ukraine.”
Kosovo’s ambassador to the U.S. also claimed that Kosovo police seized documents related to Milan Radojcic, a notorious criminal and vice-leader of the leading Serbian political party in Kosovo who is a close associate of Serbia’s president. The fact that Radojcic’s documents were seized, and several suspects found shelter in Serbia, indicates involvement of Serbian authorities who refuse to hand over those that executed the attack, the ambassador alleged.
Ambassador Dugolli claimed that this fits a pattern of deliberate behavior of Serbia toward Kosovo in recent times.
“It is Belgrade that orchestrated the walk out of Kosovo Serbs from institutions, just as Serbia’s regime refuses to dismantle illegal security structures, intimidates Kosovo Serbs from participating in elections, forces them to man barricades, orders attacks where more than 90 KFOR soldiers as well as many police officers and journalists were seriously injured, it provides impunity to those responsible for attacks, and consistently violates Kosovo’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security,” the ambassador said.
Serbia’s ambassador to the U.S., Marko Djuric, expressed condolences to the victims’ families, but argued that Kurti bears responsibility for the bloodshed in the north of Kosovo.
“Bloodshed in the north of Kosovo is a tragedy that could and should have been prevented. Albin Kurti’s irresponsible policies have set the stage for today’s tragedy,” Ambassador Djuric told Fox News Digital.
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Djuric made five separate accusations against the Kurti government, among others the monoethnic structure of Kosovo forces in the north, failure to respect the existing agreements, terror treatment of the Serb population in the north which has involved many raids in Serb areas, forced installment of mayors in north Kosovo municipalities and public denouncement of EU mediated normalization talks.
Djuric also dismissed reports by some Kosovar media of Wagner involvement by highlighting comments by the commander of KFOR, who said there was no evidence of the mercenary group’s presence in Kosovo.
In a televised address to the nation, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic condemned the violence and categorically rejected Kurti’s claim that the attackers were sponsored by Belgrade, instead saying the Serbs behind the attack were from Kosovo.
The Serbian Orthodox Church also condemned the violence, saying in a statement, “This is a serious incident that can have major consequences, and therefore it is very important that everything is done to preserve order of peace and order.”
While 92% of Kosovo is ethnic Albanian, Serbs in the north are a majority and remain loyal to Belgrade and refuse to accept Kosovo’s 2008 unilateral declaration of independence.
Conflict between Serbia and Kosovo following the 1999 war is unresolved and is a roadblock to their further European integration. Kosovo was a former province of Serbia and was once integrated within the nation of Yugoslavia. NATO led a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, which comprised Serbia and Montenegro, to defend Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians against violence from Belgrade. Nearly a decade later, in 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, but Serbia refuses to recognize their independence.
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Any hopes of continuing the path of peace and reconciliation, which seemed promising months ago, now seem further out of reach.
“The normalization talks have been in a deadlock since before the latest round of escalation,” Helena Ivanov, associate fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, told Fox News Digital.
“Notably, Kurti rejected the latest EU proposal insisting that for any step forward Serbia must first recognize Kosovo as independent. This demand by Kurti is of course contrary to previously signed agreements, which stipulate that Kosovo must create the Association of Serb Municipalities. The latest round of escalation most certainly will not help these talks and is likely to lead to more disagreements and difficulties,” Ivanov added.
Brussels asks airlines to agree on standard luggage sizes
The European Commission has asked airlines to standardise their luggage sizes in order to make things simpler for travellers.
A lack of common measures often causes confusion among airlines’ customers and leads to hidden extra costs.
Many people find it difficult to understand what size items are allowed on board for free, prompting the Commission on Wednesday to make the request to airlines.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament asked for a standardisation of airlines’ carry-on luggage rules. But instead of proposing measures, the Commission said it prefers to let the industry come up with the rules itself.
“This information should be provided to the travellers from the very beginning to know exactly when you buy a ticket what you are actually buying and what kind of luggage you can bring either on board or in the haul?” Adina Vălean, the European Commissioner for Transport told reporters in Brussels.
“That being said, we reserve our right that, if nothing happens in a reasonable amount of time, we will step in.”
At the same time, the Commission also proposed a series of measures to reinforce passengers’ rights legislation, with a special focus on the reimbursement of delayed or cancelled trips, after it discovered gaps when it comes to intermodal trips.
One way the Commission is trying to solve this is via a standard EU-wide reimbursement and compensation form.
But it will also try to help passengers be more aware of their rights, especially if they are travelling by different means of transport or booked the trip through an intermediary.
Nordic Crime Novel ‘Big Brother’ Set to be Adapted for TV by Act 4 (EXCLUSIVE)
Icelandic production company Act 4 is set to turn Skuli Sigurdsson’s award-winning Nordic crime novel “Big Brother” (“Stóri bróðir”) into a TV drama.
Act 4, founded earlier this year by a group of top Icelandic industry execs, has optioned Sigurdsson’s chilling debut novel with actor, producer and Act 4 co-founder Olafur Darri Olafsson (“The Tourist”) on board as showrunner and executive producer.
“Big Brother” tells the story of a detective and an investigative journalist who set out to solve a “mysterious case,” according to the logline. “Men are being severely beaten on every full moon by what seems like the same perpetrator. But the story is also told from the perspective of the perpetrator, who considers his crimes an act of retribution for old wrongdoings.”
The story asks tough questions of its audience when it comes to crime and punishment as well as being a critique of society’s failure to properly deal with sexual violence.
“I read ‘Big Brother’ last summer after hearing good things from multiple source,” said Olafsson, who is next set to appear in Season 2 of Apple TV+ hit “Severance.” “I was immediately drawn to the book, it is fantastically written, fast-paced and just felt so right to develop into a series. Our team at Act 4 is really excited about bringing Skuli’s book to the big screen and we know that fans of crime dramas will love it. It’s been a long time since I read such a fantastic debut novel as ‘Big Brother.’ I would also suggest that people watch out for Skuli’s books in the future as he just released his sophomore novel, ‘The Man from São Paulo.’”
Sigurdsson said: “I am most pleased and honored that Act 4 will be making a television series based on my novel ‘Big Brother.’ This has been in the works for some time and it is a pleasure to begin the journey. It’s an honour to work with a production firm as excellent as Act 4. Their vision for ‘Big Brother’ is strong and I look forward to the undertaking with Olafur Darri and company.”
As Variety exclusively reported, Act 4 was launched in January by Olafsson, Hörður Rúnarsson (“Black Sands”), Jónas Margeir Ingólfsson (“The Minister”) and Birkir Blær Ingólfsson (“Thin Ice”) after they joined forces with a group of international investors to develop, finance and produce high-end Nordic content.
Imprisoned US Marine vet Paul Whelan assaulted over ‘political differences,’ Russian news agency reports
New details have emerged after imprisoned U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan was allegedly assaulted by another inmate in a Russian prison.
Whelan, whose family insists he is being held on false charges, suffered an eye injury in a quarrel with another convict, the Mordovian Federal Penitentiary Service told Russian news agency Interfax.
The agency reported Whelan’s assailant is a “convict from Turkey” who allegedly struck the U.S. national “on the basis of political differences.”
“Employees of the institution immediately stopped the illegal actions and took the participants in the conflict to the medical unit,” the Federal Penitentiary Service said, according to Interfax. Whelan is reported to have an abrasion under his eye.
US MARINE VETERAN PAUL WHELAN JAILED IN RUSSIA ATTACKED IN PRISON, FAMILY SAYS
According to the report, the incident was recorded through video surveillance, and an investigation is being conducted for review by police in Mordovia.
The Whelan family said Paul was assaulted at a labor camp on Tuesday afternoon. David Whelan said his brother was working at a sewing table when a new inmate blocked part of the production line and Paul asked him to move out of the way.
“After repeated requests, the prisoner hit Paul in the face, breaking Paul’s glasses in the process, and attempted to hit him a second time,” David Whelan said in an email statement. “Paul stood up to block the second hit and other prisoners intervened to prevent the prisoner continuing to attack Paul.”
David Whelan said his brother has asked local prosecutors to investigate the alleged attack.
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“He is also concerned that these sorts of attacks can occur any time and, due to the various sharp implements in the workshop including the shears the other prisoner was holding today, could escalate into a far more serious attack,” David Whelan said. “Paul is a target because he is an American and anti-American sentiment is not uncommon among the other prisoners.”
The U.S. State Department told Fox News Digital the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been in contact with Paul and understands he is receiving medical treatment.
The State Department also called on Russia to release Whelan and to ensure all U.S. citizens being detained there are safe.
Whelan was arrested in December 2018 on charges of espionage and spying for the U.S. government and sentenced to 16 years. He and the U.S. have denied the charges as the 53-year-old remains imprisoned at a labor camp in Russia’s Mordovia republic.
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On Dec. 28, 2018, while staying in a hotel in the Moscow area, Whelan was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service. At the time, he had reportedly arrived in the Russian capital to attend the wedding of a friend and act as a travel guide for the groom’s family. However, Russian officials claimed that Whelan had met with an unnamed Russian citizen who gave the former Marine a USB drive containing classified material.
He was left out of the highly publicized prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia last year in which WNBA player Brittney Griner was freed from Russian custody for the release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death.”
Fox News Digital’s Louis Casiano contributed to this report.
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