LIBERATION OF KOSOVO; No bridge over the river of hatred

A City Divided

THE MAN sheltering under the dripping cigarette kiosk at the end of the bridge had been waiting to cross the river for more than two hours. All he wanted to do was buy bread for his family.

"They [the Serbs] will not let us cross," he said, pointing to a gang of menacing young men standing on the other side of the bridge.

"Nato is doing nothing to protect us Albanians. The Serbs can come over this side but we cannot cross over there. There are people here whose houses are on that side of the river and they are not allowed to cross. There is a man whose daughter was taken to hospital yesterday and he is not allowed to visit. He doesn't even know if she is alive."

Mitrovica, north of Pristina, is a divided city. It has always been a city of two halves - the south predominantly Albanian, the north mainly Serb. The two parts are divided by the river Ibra. Once the division was voluntary.

The gang on the far side of the bridge was armed with guns and grenades and made their intentions quite clear. "If they [the Albanians] come over here they will be killed. It's as simple as that. They should stay where they are."

Mitrovica is a test case of Nato's ability to bring peace to Kosovo. French troops have spent a week now overseeing a tense situation. They have tried to separate the sides. The Serbs are in the north, where there are shops and bakeries, the Albanians in the south, ravaged and burnt out. Here the shops are empty.

The Serbs have allowed Albanian women to cross the bridge to buy food. If the men cross the French warn them they are taking their lives into their own hands. K-For wants to be fair to both sides. But its approach appears clumsy.

The Mitrovica region saw some of the worst atrocities against Albanians. Today FBI agents attached to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will travel to Mitrovica, investigating atrocity allegations.

Less than a mile from the river, Driton Beqiri, told how 17 of his wife's cousins had been murdered in her nearby village of Galica. "They were all massacred by the Serbs - they were shot and then they were cut up with knives. I saw their bodies myself," he said.

"Now when I try to cross the bridge and I am stopped I feel great hatred. I know that these Serbs could have been the people who killed my family."

Mr Beqiri said that yesterday his sister crossed the river for food. On returning the gang abused her, stealing her bags.

His wife, Fatime, gently rocking the couple's seven-month-old son, said: "What can you feel about people who would kill babies like this?"

The three Mitrovica road bridges are patrolled night and day by Serbs, enforcing their apartheid vision. They wear no uniforms.

Yesterday The Independent crossed to Mitrovica's north and found a central organiser. Oliver Ivanovich is a businessman with fluent English. He carries a Russian-made pistol in the back of his jeans and a Yugoslav army hand- grenade loose in his jacket pocket. The young men in the gangs call him "chief". He sat on the sofa in his fifth-storey flat. A shiny Yugoslav- made Kalashnikov was leaning against a wall.

"We are two towns. There is the Serb and the Albanian. Our mission is for there to be no more Albanian people in this part of the city.

"The ones from the other [Albanian] side... are wild. Sorry, but that is the only word for them. We want the city divided. It will be like Beirut or Belfast. We do not want the KLA coming into our area so that is why I help organise the patrols. That is why everybody here has to have a gun. I feel very sad but it is the only way that we can save our people."

Nato admits Mitrovica is one of the most intractable situations it is tackling in Kosovo. It will not allow Kosovo to be divided but faces the prospect of a city where division may be the only way to achieve peace.

A Nato spokesman said: "Mitrovica is one of the most difficult jobs we have to do. We could be there for years."

t French peacekeepers have found a mass grave containing as many as 180 bodies. The Defence Minister, Alain Richard, on a visit to the peacekeepers' headquarters in Mitrovica, said: "The general [in charge of French forces] told me that the latest grave they discovered contained more than 100 bodies." The French commander, General Bruno Cuche, said there could be as many as 180 bodies at the site.

Rebuilding

a Nation

THE European Commission has promised to put up to 700m euros (pounds 460m) a year into Kosovo's reconstruction, but says it expects to foot only half of the total bill.

Outlining plans for a European Agency for Reconstruction, to be based in Pristina or Skopje, Hans Van den Broek, acting commissioner for external affairs, said the money - to be spent over three years - was in addition to humanitarian aid pledges already made. The figure appears to fall well short of US expectations that Europe will foot almost the entire bill for rebuilding the Balkans.

Brussels also said that Montenegro would be exempt from all but humanitarian aid.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy