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Cablegate: Attacks On Ethnic Albanians in Serbia

VZCZCXYZ6009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVB #0197/01 0650556
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 050556Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8675
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFNSAA/AFSOUTH NAPLES IT

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000197

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

ZAGREB SENDS FOR BELGRADE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KBTS KPAO SR MW KV
SUBJECT: ATTACKS ON ETHNIC ALBANIANS IN SERBIA

Summary
-----

1. Following Kosovo's declaration of independence, nationalist
protestors have targeted ethnic Albanians and their property in
several Serbian cities. Besides Albanians, protestors have also
attacked the property of the Gorani ethnic community, who are often
mistaken for Albanians. South Serbia, with a majority Albanian
population, remains calm with no incidents against Albanians. End
Summary.

Violence in Vojvodina
---------------------

2. Since Kosovo's declaration of independence, Serbian nationalists
have employed low scale violence and intimidation in sporadic
incidents against ethnic Albanians and Gorani living in Serbia. The
majority of these incidents have occurred in the northern autonomous
region of Vojvodina, with only few attacks - Kragujevac, Novi
Beograd and Leskovac - elsewhere in Serbia. Since February 17,
groups of protestors have attacked Albanian and Gorani businesses in
Sombor, Kikinda, Subotica and Zrenjanin. On February 18 about 150
youth walked through the city of Sombor, under police escort, broke
several windows of Albanian-owned properties. Some 200 persons
protested outside Albanian owned bakeries, throwing firecrackers,
and calling for the boycott of shops owned by Albanians. In
Zrenjanin, vandals have, on twelve occasions, attacked businesses
owned by Albanians and Gorani. Several of the shops, mainly
bakeries, have had their windows broken repeatedly. On February 20,
Zrenjanin Mayor Goran Knezevic (DS) issued a statement condemning
the attacks, calling them the work of a "group of delinquents." In
Subotica several hundred high school students protested in front of
an Albanian-owned bakery shouting "Kill Albanians," and vandalized
four Albanian-owned bakeries.

Boycott
-------

3. In Sombor, local media reported that a group of citizens have
been giving away free bread and pastries in front of an
Albanian-owned bakery, since Kosovo's independence. The group
claimed that they were not organized by any political party or with
any political objective, but that their goal was to support citizens
to buy "local" products. Local DS, G17 plus and LDP branch offices
told media that they suspected the group was organized with an
obvious political agenda and hoped city authorities would stop the
initiative. Sombor's mayor, Jovan Slavkovic (DS), said it was not
his responsibility, but he hoped relevant state institutions would
intervene to resolve the issue, B92 reported.

The Government Response
-----------------------

3. In response to these attacks, local police are conducting an
ongoing investigation in Kikinda, and have apprehended one attacker
in Subotica, according to media reports. The Director of the
Government's Agency for Human and Minority Rights Petar Ladjevic
(DSS) told the embassy in a March 4 conversation that the government
was thus far satisfied with police reaction to the attacks. He added
that a number of criminal and misdemeanor charges were filed against
those who took part in attacks on Albanian and Gorani property, but
he would not give the precise number of cases filed to date. On
February 23, Ladjevic visited Albanian and Gorani families who were
victims to the violence in Novi Sad and Zrenjanin. He told the
embassy that authorities would do their best to compensate citizens
whose property was damaged and that responsible would be brought to
justice.

South Serbia Remains Calm
-------------------------

4. Despite the attacks in Vojvodina, local Albanian officials in
Southern Serbia, have confirmed that their region remains calm. The
mayor of Bujanovac, Nagip Arifi, told emboff on March 3 that there
have been no incidence of violence or intimidation, and the area
remains calm.

Comment
-------

5. The ongoing attacks against ethnic Albanians and the weak
response by local and state officials to them, is a troubling
indication of ongoing tensions in Serbia following Kosovo's
independence. Equally of concern is the limited government response
to denounce such acts and the relatively limited media coverage of
the events. End Comment.

MUNTER

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