KLA link suspected in UN police murder

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The Independent Online

The United Nations offered a €50,000 (£35,000) reward yesterday for information leading to the arrest of the killer of one of its policemen serving in Kosovo, amid fears that law enforcement agencies had become the target of an upsurge of violence.

Some fear the killing is linked to recent attacks on court and police buildings, which followed the conviction of former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) on war crimes charges.

Yesterday, investigators refused to speculate about who might have killed Major Satish Menon, a 43-year-old Indian officer who was shot by a sniper in an ambush on Sunday near the village of Slatina, 28 miles north of the capital, Pristina. A British officer driving the vehicle was unhurt.

Major Menon is the first policeman to die in Kosovo since the international community took over the administration after Nato's bombing campaign in 1999. The shooting took place in a Serb area but within easy reach of Albanian villages, and the two communities are blaming each other.

The killing has caused alarm as it follows recent attacks on symbols of law and order after the conviction of four ex-KLA members on war crimes charges. The men, who were sentenced to a total of 45 years, were found guilty of offences including torture, kidnapping and the inhuman treatment of civilians during the Kosovo conflict in 1998 and 1999.

In an apparent reprisal for the ruling, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a district court building in Pristina on 20 July, causing serious damage. That was followed immediately by an explosion outside a police station near by.

Three days earlier, a hand grenade exploded outside another police station, north-east of Pristina, near the birthplace of the four convicted men. UN police vehicles have also been vandalised and daubed with graffiti, and last weekend, gunmen fired into a car in the mainly Albanian town of Pec, killing three people, including two girls passing by. The violence has posed new questions for peace-keepers, who once saw the KLA as allies of the Nato alliance against the Serb forces of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Sven Lindholm, spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said the attacks on court and police buildings "can be seen as an attack on the rule of law because they were targeted on the institutions that are trying to instil the rule of law".

While some see the spate of recent attacks as a political statement by those who retain a loyalty to former KLA colleagues, others believe that it is the work of criminal gangs.

Stefan Feller, the UN police chief, linked the earlier attacks with the trial verdict, but was careful not to connect the latest death in the same way. He said Major Menon died "because he was a police officer" and that he was "apparently selected at random to be killed".

He added: "This was a cold-blooded and deliberate killing of an officer who had no chance to defend himself."

More than 4,000 UN police officers patrol Kosovo. Many former KLA members have joined the unarmed 6,000-strong local police force, the Kosovo Protection Corps. The region has been administered by UN and Nato-led peace-keepers from K-For since June 1999, after a 78-day bombing campaign forced the withdrawal of Serb forces under the command of Mr Milosevic.