Pristina, Feb. 10, 2000

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Life in Kosovo

My 28th birthday was pretty explosive. A bus filled with Serbian refugees was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Amazingly only two persons died. Photo: Thierry Malesieux, KFOR
Feb. 2, 2000, My 28th birthday, was pretty explosive. A KFOR escorted bus filled with Serbian refugees was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Amazingly only two persons died. Photo: Thierry Malesieux, KFOR
After almost a month in Kosovo, I thought it was about time to drop you a note. The days down here are pretty long, and time has passed by faster than I imagined.

Initially, I thought I was going down here as the KFOR spokesman. In time, I still might do this job, but at the moment the boss down here prefers to do the job himself together with another officer. But I don't mind. There's a lot of pressure to the job. Instead, I've become the Internet man, and I want to build a news service at http://kforonline.com. So far, I've got little to brag about, but I think I can convince my bosses that Internet is something worth using the energy on.

On Feb. 2 I had my 28th birthday, and that was a pretty interesting and explosive day. In the afternoon we received a report that an UNHCR bus had been hit by an anti-tank rocket, and two Serbs were killed. This was an unprovoked attack against innocent civilians, and the bus was under KFOR protection. In situations like this, it is important that the information team works efficiently, and my responsibility was using the Internet to tell the world about the attack.

Inside the bus there was blood all over the place and slices of flesh over the seats. It must have been a nightmare for the passengers. Photo: Thierry Malesieux, KFOR
Inside the bus there was blood all over the place and slices of flesh over the seats. It must have been a nightmare for the passengers. Photo: Thierry Malesieux, KFOR

The day after the assault, I drove up to the scene of the assault. The press was not allowed to see the blown-up bus, but together with three other officers, I saw what kind of damage a rocket can do. Not a pleasant experience. Inside the bus there was blood all over the place and slices of flesh over the seats. It must have been a nightmare, and it's a wonder only two of the 49 passengers were killed.

Some of you might know something about the divided city of Mitrovica, and the assault took place not long away from this city. Since the attack, we have seen an explosive conflict here. But there has always been tensions in Mitrovica. The city is divided between mostly Albanians on the south side and mostly Serbs in the north of the city, and there is constant tension between the populations. The last week, KFOR has enforced a curfew to put a lid on the tension, and without the KFOR presence, much more than the nine people killed so far would have been dead. Anyway, I think this incident gave us the warning of a hot spring.

In this situation, I'm very happy I'm not the spokesman since the international and local media writes constantly about the conflict, and we cannot always give the perfect answers. But I guess it would have been worse if we invited Slobodan Milosevic and his friends back to Kosovo to get a piece of the cake.

KFOR is going to be here for a long time, but I think we can make a difference if we stay here long enough to do something about the hatred between the different ethnic populations. Almost 70 per cent of the population here is under 30 years, and it should be possible to change their minds and transform them into productive members of the community.

However, a population like this can also be very dangerous if the basic needs are not met. The young people have to feel that they make a difference. If not, this project goes down the drain. Let us pray for reconciliation of the hearts of Kosovo.

Best regards

k

--
Major Kristian Kahrs, Press Officer KFOR HQ, Pristina, Kosovo

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