PRISTINA (Reuters) - The European Union police and justice mission in Kosovo (EULEX) arrested three ethnic Albanians, two of them officers in a NATO-trained security force, on Thursday on suspicion of war crimes.
The three men were detained in their hometown area of Skenderaj, a former bastion of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which rose up against Serbian government forces in the majority ethnic Albanian province in 1998-99.
“The suspects are charged with war crimes against the civilian population,” said Blerim Krasniqi, a EULEX spokesman.
The EU mission did not detail the charges but Tahir Rrecaj, a lawyer for one of the arrested, said they were suspected of killing two Albanian civilians in June 1999, just days after the war ended and NATO troops took control of Kosovo.
During and after the war there were many political killings of Kosovo Albanians by their own kin, sometimes over allegations of collaboration with Serbian authorities.
The suspects were once KLA fighters, Krasniqi said. Two are now members of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), trained by NATO. The 2,500-strong KSF is lightly armed and its main tasks are crisis response, civil protection and ordnance disposal.
Kosovo, which gained independence from Serbia in 2008, expects to transform KSF into its own army in the future but no dates have been set. Kosovo has no army but some 6,000 troops under NATO command patrol Kosovo.
More than 10,000 civilians, most of them ethnic Albanians, were killed in the war. Another 800,000 were forced to flee their homes during the conflict, which prompted NATO to hammer Serbia with air strikes and ended with the United Nations taking control of Kosovo in 1999.
Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Mark Heinrich