Albanian Daily News
US troops launch 'charm offensive'

Jan 27, 2000

VITINA, Kosovo - Allegations of improper conduct by US troops in the Kosovo peacekeeping mission have prompted a "charm offensive," by the American troops.

US peacekeeping troops stationed in Kosovo are under intense scrutiny, following allegations of improper conduct by US troops.

A preliminary US Army investigation supports various allegations against two Army officers and as many as four non-commissioned officers.

The accusations include making threats and using improper force with Kosovar men, and having inappropriate contact with local women. In the most serious case, a US soldier is accused of killing a young Albanian girl. Army Staff Sgt. Frank Ronghi is accused of murdering a local 11-year-old ethnic Albanian girl. Ronghi is being held in Germany during the investigation.

"We think that they acted brutally toward our citizens on Market Day, where some citizens have been harassed," said Skenderbe Hebibi, an ethnic Albanian politician. "Also, when interrogating some individuals which we think were arrested in an improper way."

The allegations have prompted what might be called a "charm offensive," by US troops, in an attempt to convince townspeople that soldiers are treating citizens fairly.

"We are in the community. We are engaging," said Army spokesman Maj. Eric Gunhus. "We are still on mission. We are out there showing, treating people with dignity and respect."

Officers close to the case have said that on several occasions, women were patted and pinched on the buttocks.

While the various incidents appear to be isolated to the town of Vitina, officials fear any additional allegations against US troops could spread alienation throughout Kosovo.

"We imagined you very, very good, as very good people," said one Kosovar. "But sometimes their behaviors are different."

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