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Kosovo Violence Spotlights Need for More Police

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

CAPE TOWN, Republic of South Africa, Feb. 16, 2000, Feb. 16, 2000 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen called on the international community Feb. 16 to double -- even triple -- the number of police in Kosovo following weekend violence in the provincial town of Mitrovica.

According to news reports, ethnic Albanians attacked French peacekeeping troops during a weekend of violence Feb. 12 and 13. Two ethnic Albanian snipers died and two French peacekeepers and several Serbs and ethnic Albanians were wounded.

Cohen, traveling in Africa through Feb. 17, told reporters only about 2,000 of the 6,000 international police authorized for the Kosovo mission are actually in place. Until more arrive, he said, NATO-led troops are serving in their stead. About 50,000 international peacekeepers, including about 5,000 Americans, make up the Kosovo Force known as KFOR.

While the military forces carry out the missions assigned to them, Cohen said, "they are not well-suited for police work -- namely, arresting people, detaining them, interrogating them." Due to an ineffective judicial system and insufficient judges and prosecutors, he noted, those arrested are turned loose within a few days.

"That is why we have to keep the emphasis on getting the policemen there and getting a judicial system," Cohen said. "They can effectively protect themselves and separate the crowds." He warned violence could escalate and spread without sufficient police on hand. "So that's why it's important for this to be calmed immediately -- so it doesn't serve as an example for others to take advantage of it.

"None of the Europeans want to see this mission fail, Cohen told reporters. "They know that the success depends ultimately on having more police on the ground."

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