Belgrade, Dec. 31,
Dutch sniper killing Serbs
After my last newsletter, many of you
wanted to know what happened in my recent trip to the Presevo
Valley. My goal was to meet the Dutch sniper who works for the
Albanian guerilla UCPMB or the Liberation Army for Presevo,
Medvedja and Bujanovac. In the village of Muhovac I met with
Qlirim, or the "Liberator" in Albanian.
Me with 20 year-old commander Bardhi and the Dutch sniper Qlirim in the guerilla stronghold.
So, I spent the night with the guerillas among automatic rifles,
mortar grenades and other heavy weapons. These guys are very well
equipped, and they seem well trained. Most these guys have
background from the UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army), and one of the
commanders is only 20 years old. That is not to say that
commander Bardhi is without experience. He has been fighting
since he was 16.
I asked Qlirim if he took any pleasure in taking out Serbs with
his 12.7 mm sniper rifle or with mines.
"Yes, oh, believe me. To take out
people of Arkan, oh, it's the biggest pleasure God gives me. It's
for me no problem anymore," the 38-year old man told me.
Even if most people would say that Arkan was shot in Belgrade
some time ago, Qlirim uses "the people of Arkan" to
describe MUP police or Serb army moving into the guerilla
controlled Ground Safety Zone.
Qlirim with his custom made heavy caliber 12.7 mm sniper rifle.
(I wrote about this in my previous newsletter, but you can read
the Military Technical
Agreement to find out how
it is possible for the guerillas to operate in the buffer zone
between Kosovo and Serbia proper.)
Qlirim knows no other life than that of the gun, and he has been
a soldier since for different organizations since 1982. However,
he claims not to be a mercenary since he does not fight for money.
"I am not a mercenary because I am not being paid to kill. I
eat what these people eat, when they have it cold, I have it
cold; I'm doing the same what they are doing," he said
talking about his motivation to be a sniper for the UCPMB.
"Humanity, my friend, humanity. What
would you say if you would be married and some idiot guest
comes here to kill your family? What are you going to do? You are
going to do something," he said. On his sniper rifle he has
pictures of Albanian children, his motivation for fighting.
Qlirim kills Serbs to protect Albanian women and children, and he has pictures of children on his rifle.
Qlirim is way beyond being afraid of dying,
"You can do a lot with a face lift, but I don't need a face
lift. There is no problem that they know my face and that I kill
a lot of Arkan's people. And I keep on going. Wherever it takes
me, it takes me, but I'm not going to stop. If that means that
KFOR has to take me out with another sniper, they do it. No
problem. Whatever, no problem, but I'm not going to give myself
up, no way."
Qlirim is aware that he might end up in the Hague, but he is not
going to give himself up.
"Death never is an option. No, but I'm not going to let
myself be locked up for fighting for a good cause," he said.
With his heavy caliber sniper rifle, Qlirim
claims of having a killing range of 5.5 kilometers, that is
before his scope was shot off by two Serb snipers one an a half
month ago. Now, his reserve scope gives him a killing range of 3
kilometers, quite enough according to Qlirim.
Qlirim's AK47 is always with him when he is in position with his sniper rifle.
"One of them made the mistake of making three shots from the
same position. I hunted them down killing one in the morning and
one 4.30 p.m.," he said.
I have not had any
problems with Yugoslav authorities when I've done this story. Of
course, they try to pump me for information, but that's their job.
They did not force me to give any information to them. That is
more than I can say for the Russians.
In order to get to the guerilla check point, I had to cross back
into Kosovo to come back into Serbia proper from a different
location. KFOR Russian soldiers have check points in this area,
and when I came back from my visit with Qlirim and the rest of
the guerillas, the Russian lieutenant in charge of the check
point refused to let me pass before I had talked to his commander
in Kamanica 15 kilometers away.
A Serb police officer from MUP guarding the last Serb check point before the guerilla held territory in the GSZ. The UCPMB has a sniper position a few hundred meters away.
This is of course totally unacceptable, but
I was forced to go to the Russian HQ in Kamanica. Needless to
say, I did not answer any questions. I would rather go to prison
than to be interrogated about by work as a journalist. I have
filed an official complaint to KFOR demanding economic
compensation, an apology and assurances that KFOR will not try to
censor the press in the future.
But now, I'm back in Belgrade. Originally, I was planning to be
in Norway today, but I had an appointment to get into Belgrade
Central Prison to talk to Albanian political prisoners on Friday.
However, the warden changed his mind, and told me and my
translator that we could not enter the prison before next
Wednesday. That means new years in Belgrade, and that is not the
worse city to celebrate the end of the millennium.
I wish everyone a happy new year.
Kristian Kahrs, freelance journalist, Yugoslavia
Cell phone: +381 63 81 98 939
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