July 9, 2000Kosovo leader flown to Germany as plot thickens
STREOC, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - NATO peacekeepers transferred a Kosovo Albanian leader to Germany for treatment on Sunday as conflicting details emerged of the mysterious late-night incident where he was wounded.
Ramush Haradinaj, an ethnic Albanian former guerrilla commander, was flown from a U.S. military hospital in Kosovo to another in southern Germany, the NATO-led KFOR force said.
Haradinaj's political party said he had been the target of an assassination attempt in the early hours of Friday morning. But others involved in the incident insisted Sunday they had wounded Haradinaj after he came to their home to attack them.
Whichever version is correct, the episode could have serious consequences for international authorities running Kosovo.
If Haradinaj was attacked, he is the third ex-commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army to be targeted in recent months -- a worrying statistic for NATO and United Nations officials charged with establishing peace and stability.
If he is arrested for committing a crime, it could destabilize Kosovo's fragile political landscape and some of his supporters may decide to respond with violence.
ATTACKS ON RUSSIANS
After Haradinaj was involved in a scuffle with Russian peacekeepers in May, there were a string of gun, grenade and rocket attacks on Russian bases.
KFOR said Haradinaj, president of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, had been transferred to the Landstuhl military hospital after examinations by U.S. doctors in Kosovo.
``During one of the tests it was discovered that a small fragment of shrapnel or deformed bullet had entered his face and traveled down to his neck, where it is reported to be near sensitive tissue," KFOR spokesman Major Scott Slaten said.
Kosovo's U.N. police force is investigating the case and Italian soldiers stood guard outside a house peppered with bullet holes in the village of Streoc, western Kosovo, where the incident is believed to have taken place.
In the garden of the house, members of the Musaj family said Haradinaj and around 30 armed associates including his brother, a regional commander of the civilian successor to the KLA, had approached and threatened them.
``They came just to destroy us. Why else would he come at night, instead of during the day, if he wanted a proper discussion?" said 35-year-old Qasim Musaj.
A shootout followed and a grenade exploded, according to the family, and Haradinaj was wounded. None of the around 20 people inside the house was hurt, the family said.
An senior official in the Alliance, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged Haradinaj had gone to the house -- a fact omitted from the party's earlier descriptions, which simply referred to an attack between the towns of Pec and Glodjane.
But the official insisted he had been accompanied by only three other people. He said a grenade had been thrown at them after they spoke with a female family member in the garden.
``There is a lot of invention with a political background going on," the official said. ``We're very interested in the truth coming out because the truth is in our favor."
Haradinaj's allies and the Musajs appear to agree he went to the house in response to a visit to his father's home by members of several families, including the Musajs, a few days earlier.
These family elders have accused Haradinaj and KLA fighters loyal to him of kidnapping members of their family because they were members of a rival ethnic Albanian group.
Haradinaj's supporters insist he stopped off on the way home from a political meeting to tell the Musaj family not to involve his father and to suggest they meet soon in his office.
While the Musajs say his motives were far more sinister, Haradinaj's allies suggest he is the victim of a political plot to discredit him.