Political activists pick up pieces after blast wrecks Kosovo office

PRISTINA, Aug 20, 2000 -- (AFP) Standing in the shattered remains of a small political party's bombed out offices, Gazmend Kelmendi pointed to the shrapnel embedded in the wall which came within inches of turning a female activist into the latest victim of a wave of political violence in Kosovo.

The OSCE manager of Pristina's Party Political Service Center showed where the woman, a member of the Kosovo Turkish People's Party (KTHP), was sitting. Dotted across the wall behind her chair were jagged lumps of metal.

"She was very lucky," Kelmendi said. The activist suffered cuts to the face and arm and was deeply traumatized, witnesses said, but she survived.

In her office, and in those of other parties representing minority communities in Kosovo next door, shards of glass, lumps of metal and shredded political tracts have been flung across the room and into the corridor beyond.

Peacekeeping troops investigating the attack believe the bomb was placed on an air-conditioning unit once attached to the window of the KTHP office where now there is merely a gaping hole. Pieces of the unit are embedded in the walls and ceiling of the center.

"I was in my office when it happened," said KTHP activist Linda Spahiu.

"The force of the blast jammed my door shut and could not get out until I was helped by colleagues from other parties. I couldn't see anything, there was so much smoke. It all happened in a moment, I couldn't feel anything."

Spahiu's friend and colleague Nebahat Dogan was in a corridor of the building when the explosion destroyed her office.

"I saw people running out. They were shouting 'Linda is injured, Linda is injured' then Linda was in front of me," she said.

"There was blood on her hands and face. I said to her 'Linda, my dear, you survived'."

The blast also shattered windows in the Yugoslavian government representation in the same building, one floor up, leading Belgrade officials to claim that Serbian diplomats were the intended targets.

Dogan is not so sure. "Slobodan Milosevic is trying to destabilize Kosovo," she said.

The attack on the Pristina party political center is only the latest incident in what appears to be a wave of political attacks sweeping Kosovo in the run up to municipal elections on October 28.

Bernard Kouchner, the head of the UN mission in Kosovo, acknowledged the challenge this posed, when he said Friday: "Some people prefer using bombs to ballot papers."

But Dogan said her party would not be intimidated.

"We will stand in five municipalities. We will stand for good behavior, fairness and independence for Kosovo," she declared.

Original article