Kosovo Albanians stage first anti-KFOR demo, demand arms back

PRISTINA, Jun 28, 2000 -- (AFP) Kosovo Albanians staged their first demonstration against the KFOR international peacekeeping force to protest the destruction of a huge arms stash belonging to former rebels, KFOR officials said Wednesday.

The crowd of up to 1,000 ethnic Albanians used trucks to block the road into the village of Lapusnik, near the central town of Glogovac, late Tuesday and waved banners saying "These weapons belong to the Albanian people" and "KFOR out of Kosovo," said KFOR spokesman Rune Haarstad.

They also called for the release of farmer Shaban Shala, 25, on whose land the massive stash of arms and munitions was found two weeks ago.

Haarstad said it was the first time ethnic Albanians, who welcomed the NATO-led force with open arms when they replaced Yugoslav troops last June, have demonstrated against KFOR.

Brigadier Richard Shirreff, commander of Kosovo's British-led central sector, said some protest was to be expected after his troops confiscated the weapons near the central Drenica Valley, heartland of the former separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

He said gun ownership was a part of the local culture, but added that the demonstration was almost certainly organized.

"You don't block a road with four heavy goods vehicles and get 1,000 people out just like that," said Shirreff.

KFOR troops found two bunkers filled with some 70 tonnes of weapons and explosives -- including anti-tank rockets, mortars, machine guns and tens of thousands of grenades -- earlier this month near the village of Klecka, some six kilometers (four miles) from the Drenica Valley.

They also found documents such as issue and receipt vouchers which identified the stash as KLA property, Shirreff said.

He said it was possible that ex-KLA leader General Agim Ceku, whose wartime headquarters were less than a kilometer from the bunkers, had not known about the stash.

He said Ceku had taken over KLA command very late in the war and had only led the rebels for the last few months of their conflict with federal Yugoslavia.

Ceku, now head of the KLA's civilian successor, the Kosovo Protection Corps, has strenuously denied any link between the KLA and the arms find.

Original article