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Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija
Gracanica, August 20, 2000
Representatives of the diocese and the SNC were able to see for themselves that KFOR unfortunately IS NOT PRESENT AT ALL in the village of Crkvena Vodica. Namely, Norwegian soldiers pass through the village only occasionally, most frequently by bicycle. Not a single soldier was on duty at the check-point and Albanian vehicles pass through the village constantly without any control. During Bishop Artemije's visit to the site of the attack, a column of Albanian vehicles with a flag passed. Various shouts and provocations could be heard from the vehicles. The local residents who gathered to talks with the bishop and the representatives of the SNC confirmed that this was an everyday occurrence and that Norwegian KFOR was asked numerous times to at least secure the playground where the children play since there is no other place for them to play in the village. Unfortunately, KFOR did not secure the playground nor assign troops to the check-point at the village entrance from the direction of Obilic.
The night of the attack, the Albanian vehicle carrying armed persons therefore passed unhindered through the "empty" check-point at the village entrance and drove to the playground. According to testimony of the little girl I.M., one of the Albanians began to shout through the window and swear at the children who were at the playground at that time. Then, he emerged through the car window almost to the waist and threw the grenades. According to the testimony of the majority of the local residents, three explosions were heard. At that moment, NEITHER KFOR nor UNMIK police forces were present as per initial reports because the playground was completely UNPROTECTED just as it was today during the visit of Bishop Artemije and the representatives of the Council when NOT ONE member of KFOR could be seen upon entering the village or near the playground despite the fact that, according to KFOR's press update, KFOR control in the region was reinforced. Several children gathered around the bishop at the very moment when the noisy Albanian column of vehicles passed. We could almost sense the entire atmosphere which reigned during the time of the attack.
Local residents confirmed that no less than 15 children suffered shrapnel wounds, of whom 9 sustained serious injuries as advised in yesterday's SNC Daily Press Briefing. One young girl suffered a shrapnel wound a hair's breadth from her spinal column.
As advised in yesterday's Daily Press Briefing, the attackers fled unhindered continuing to drive through the village and leaving it in the direction of the Albanian village of Ade. At the very exit from the village, an international police vehicle chanced to pace which, instead of stopping the attackers, hurried in the opposite direction toward Obilic to see what had happened. Of course, by then there was a spontaneous gathering of local residents and parents who reacted angrily against the representatives of the police who apparently found themselves in the village entirely by chance.
In the opinion of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, great responsibility for this accident which only by luck did not end tragically, is borne by NORWEGIAN KFOR which failed to protect the village as other KFOR members do in other parts of Kosovo. What is more, even after this attack KFOR failed to establish a check-point which is not only incomprehensible but represents a direct invitation ot the terrorists to attempt another similar attack and to expel the Serbs from this isolated village not far from Obilic. The SNC will prepare a detailed report regarding this case on the basis of facts gathered today and will urgently request a clear response from KFOR to the question whether it is their duty to protect the people or to allow Albanian terrorists to murder children and destroy churches unimpeded. Complaints against NORWEGIAN KFOR can also be heard from the remaining Serbs in Obilic and Kosovo Polje where the lack of activity of international peacekeepers is supporting the process of ethnic cleansing. Some of the local residents of Crkvena Vodica told the bishop that they would rather have Arab KFOR forces than Norwegians who, according to them, "don't want to protect us".
On the road toward Pristina the delegation visited the village of Velika Reka, not far from Vucitrn, where the church of Sts. Peter and Paul, build in 1998, was absolutely levelled with the ground a few days ago. It is obvious that the church was professionally mined; according to the information available to the Diocese, KFOR did not protect this church despite numerous requests by the Diocese to protect our religious monuments in the area of the municipality of Vucitrn. According to still unconfirmed reports, of seven churches in the area of the municipality of Vucitrn, where UAE forces were deployed, the only undamaged and surviving church is in the village of Gojbulja, the only location where there are still Serbs. Along the roadside, we could see that almost all Serb and Romany houses were not only burned down but mostly completely levelled with the ground.
According to today's (August 20, 2000) report by Reuters agency, we learned that the UAE government from Dubai has expressed the wish to build 50 mosques in Kosovo. Namely, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has prepared a plan for the construction of the new mosques to be carried out with the help of local KFOR forces from the UAE which number 1,200 troops. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, in Christian Europe, we are witness to the fact that in regions where troops from far-away Arabia are deployed, ruthless destruction of Orthodox Christian churches is permitted, while 50 new mosques are to be built in return, all under the protectorate of the UN mission and KFOR.
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