Three Germans detained related to attack on EU office in Kosovo

The detainment of the men may distract from Kosovars who do not want a UN peacekeeping mission replaced, a security expert says.

The detention of three Germans in connection with a recent bomb attack on a European Union office in Pristina, Kosovo, has highlighted tensions over a plan to replace a nine-year UN presence with an EU mission.

On Saturday, a judge ordered the three suspects held for one month while prosecutors gather evidence for terrorism charges. The three are accused of carrying out a Nov. 14 dynamite attack that shattered glass windows at the EU office, but harmed no one.

The plot thickened in recent days, with some reports claiming that the three men are German spies and one observer saying the men were investigating organized crime ties to local officials, who may have wanted them out of the picture. .

Citing court documents, the Associated Press reported that the Kosovo prosecutors believe the Germans "intended to disrupt the bloc's efforts to deploy its new police mission."

Prosecutor Feti Tunuzliu alleged that the three suspects wanted to "hamper and hinder" the mission, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press. Tunuzliu wrote that one of the suspects threw 300 grams (0.6 pounds) of dynamite at the EU offices from a building across the street Nov. 14 as the two others kept watch.

But the BBC reported that the three detained men insist they were themselves investigating the blast site.

German and Kosovo media report that the men are German intelligence agents but officials in Berlin refuse to comment.
Lawyers for the detainees say the prosecution is seeking terrorism charges that carry a maximum 20-year sentence....
The German weekly Der Spiegel said the men worked for the German intelligence agency BND, and that they told investigators they had been examining the scene of the explosion, but had not been involved in it.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February, and has been recognized by more than 50 countries, including the US and Germany. But Serbia refuses to recognize the breakaway nation.

The blast and subsequent arrests come amid a dispute over a plan to deploy an EU police and justice mission to replace UN peacekeepers.

The EU agreed to send a mission in February, but plans were delayed due to Serbia's objections. The UN signaled in June that it was ready to end its mission in Kosovo, The Christian Science Monitor reported, and later brokered a deal with Serbia over the deployment of a replacement EU mission. But now some in Kosovo reject the deal as an affront to the nation's fledgling sovereignty.

A Reuters report noted that the Nov. 14 attack came four days after Kosovo leaders rejected the UN deal.

The AP reported that Kosovo can't accept Serbia's terms for the EU mission's deployment.

Serbia has demanded strict conditions to the EU deployment, demanding that the mission remain neutral in regard to Kosovo's status.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders, in turn, reject any conditions on the mission's work.
The 2,000-strong mission is known by its acronym, EULEX. It will include 88 American police officers, judges and prosecutors.

Last Friday, The Washington Post reported that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he hoped the EU mission could be deployed by early next month.

The paper noted that under the UN-backed deal, police, judges, and customs officials in minority Serb-run areas would work under UN authority, while those in majority Albanian areas would work with the EU mission.

Kosovo said that would violate its constitution and amounted to a de facto partition of the fledgling state....
Kosovo's population is 90 percent Albanian. The remaining 120,000 Serbs refuse to cooperate with Albanian-run institutions.

The English-language website of German broadcaster Deustche Welle quoted one security expert as saying the public details of the case don't add up.

German terrorism and security expert Elmar Thevessen told DW-RADIO that problems within Kosovo's government might be responsible for the detention. While some within the government support an EU mission that's due to take assume oversight of law-enforcement in Kosovo after more than eight years as a United Nations protectorate, others reject it.
"It looks to me that it is a matter of political intrigue within Kosovo," he said. "It doesn't make any sense at all for the German intelligence service to get involved in a bomb going off in an office of the European Union. As a matter of fact the German government has been known to be one of the biggest supporters of that mission."
Thevessen added that BND agents were also investigating organized crime ties to the Kosovo government and that this might be yet another reason why local officials were trying to get rid of them.

The Deutsche Welle report quoted the German tabloid newspaper Bild as saying that "the bomb attack had been the work of an anti-EU faction of Kosovars."

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