Limaj: I suspect that the 2004 violence and burning of churches were organized by the Serbian secret service

Pristina media have extensively been reporting about the news that „radical elements of Serbian intelligence services“ allegedly wanted to „eliminate“ former European Commission Special Rapporteur Dick Marty and „blame Kosovo“ for it. The numerous media reports also prompted several Pristina officials to present additional accusations against Serbian services. Following allegations of an assassination attempt on Hashim Thaci, a former KLA member and post-war politician, Fatmir Limaj, accused Serbian services of allegedly planning to assassinate both him and Rexhep Selimi. Limaj also expressed suspicion that the services allegedly organized ethnic violence on March 17th, 2004.

The President of the Social Democratic Initiative of Kosovo, Fatmir Limaj, made a guest appearance on Kanal 10 last night, during which he claimed that the Serbian secret services allegedly planned to assassinate both him and former Self-Determination MP Rexhep Selimi, who is currently on trial in The Hague for war crimes.

According to Limaj, the former head of the Serbian secret service, Jovica Stanisic, told him about this plan in The Hague, with whom he allegedly spent two and a half years there, Pristina-based Gazeta Express reports.

„Preparations for the assassination by the Serbian secret service were underway for all of us. Rexhep Selimi and I were ambushed by the Serbian service. Stanisic told me in The Hague, but fortunately, we did not go to where they were waiting for us,“ Limaj said on Kanal 10.

He added that the Serbian secret service „did not kill Albanians“ only in the 1970s and 1980s, but in 1998 and 1999 as well, Gazeta Express writes.

„The Albanians are the most tolerant of peoples, we view the church as part of our heritage and our pride“

During the same guest appearance, Limaj also accused the Serbian secret services of organizing the greatest post-war ethnic violence against Serbs, otherwise known as „March 17th“.

Below we publish part of last night’s discussion between Fatmir Limaj and the Kanal 10 journalist regarding March 17th, as well as the so far publicly known information about March 17th.

Limaj: The Serbian Secret Service is here. It was here more than anywhere else. We were part of the King’s Serbia, Tito’s Serbia. They’ve been here for 100 years. We should be cautious. For example, I suspect that the March 17th riots were organized by the Serbian secret service.

Journalist: No one has ever said that before. This is the first time I’m hearing about this.

Limaj: I am telling you that, according to the information I got from friends of these secret service members, there are indications that the Serbian secret service set fire to Orthodox churches. You tell me. Has it ever been in our (Albanian) tradition to burn churches? How is it possible that no church was attacked by the KLA during the entire war? How is it that in 2004 all those churches were burned and flags were displayed on them? It was ghastly, embarrassing. It was an insult to the dignity of the Albanian people. It was an insult to our dignity and has nothing to do with the values of our people. It has nothing to do with our national values – the burning of churches. Albanians are the most tolerant of peoples. We view those churches as our own, as part of our heritage, as our pride.

Journalist: And all this leads you to think that the Serbian secret service planned and carried out the riots in 2004?

Limaj: There are indications, just like in the case of Dick Marty, that the Serbian secret service had a reason to use the social discontent of the Albanians to channel it in some other ways, to present those famous pictures. I’m talking about their actions before and after, I’m not saying that these young people at the top of the churches were members of the UDB (cf. Yugoslav State Security Administration), but as you know, when it comes to protests, you may know who is leading them, but not who is involved.

What is publicly known about March 17th?

UNMIK police spokesman Derek Chappell, who was on duty back in 2004, described the March violence as having “a degree of organization behind them.”

During a visit to the violence-affected city of Obilic, the then UNMIK head Harri Holkeri stated that Albanian extremists “had a ready-made plan” for the violence.

The then NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer described the “unacceptable” violence as “orchestrated and organized by extremist factions in the Albanian community.

In his report to the U.N. Security Council, the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that “the onslaught led by Kosovo Albanian extremists against the Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities of Kosovo was an organized, widespread, and targeted campaign.”

Several other European officials also stated that the onslaught was prepared in advance.

Admiral Gregory Johnson, the commander of NATO forces, described the escalation of the three-day violence as “essentially amounting to ethnic cleansing, and it cannot continue.”

Immediately after the violence, reports appeared in the German media that a few months earlier the German intelligence service, the BND, had allegedly intercepted telephone conversations of Samedin Xhezairi, also known by the war nickname „Commander Hoxha“, one of the most controversial former KLA fighters, during which they found out that violence was being planned.

In previous years, the Kosovo media published several news pieces claiming that an organized group „derived from the KLA“ was allegedly behind March 17th, i.e. that a criminal group was allegedly formed in Kosovo at the end of 2001, and that important people were aware of their activities. Reportedly, their mission was to organize the March violence, with the support of „all war parties“, the secret service and „big families“. They were promised amnesty for the successful „mission“, but the same group was allegedly „destroyed“ at the end of 2004. However, these allegations have not been officially confirmed.

Apart from the narrative that the violence was organized in advance, a new thesis soon emerged in the summer of 2004 – that it was allegedly a spontaneous gathering of young Albanians due to the unresolved status of Kosovo.

Human Rights Watch said in a report from the period that young Albanians „felt deeply marginalized and frustrated by the lack of opportunities provided by Kosovo’s stagnating economy.“

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