The Scotsman, October 28, 2002
Kosovo mayor killed after voting
Christian Jennings in PRISTINA
A KOSOVO Albanian mayor and two of his officials were shot to death in southern Kosovo yesterday, a day after the province voted in municipal elections.
The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said Uke Bytici, a former Kosovo Albanian guerrilla commander-turned-LDK mayor from the town of Suva Reka, was killed along with his deputy and a bodyguard in an attack.
The LDK, led by Kosovo’s President Ibrahim Rugova, remained the party with the largest number of seats in Kosovo according to early projections from the elections.
UN police detained one suspect in the killing, which happened after Mr Bytici and three of his officials were travelling in a convoy of LDK supporters from Suva Reka, 35 miles south of the capital, Pristina, to the nearby village of Leshan.
Local political officials said the convoy was full of celebrating party supporters, many sporting LDK flags.
Mr Bytici, his deputy and one bodyguard was shot when their car was stopped and stoned by supporters of a rival hardline Albanian political party, who demanded they remove the flags from their cars, then opened fire.
Mr Bytici’s bodyguard is reported to have returned fire, wounding at least one of the assailants in the hand, who was subsequently arrested by international UN policemen.
A crowd of furious LDK supporters then gathered in front of Suva Reka’s municipal headquarters.
The shootings were the first acts of violence in Kosovo’s third elections since 2000, which passed off largely peacefully. The province’s first post-war elections, which were held in 2000, were marred by inter-party violence and killings of moderate Albanian politicians.
Some 58 per cent of Kosovo’s estimated 1.9 million voters - 90 per cent of whom are ethnic Albanian - turned out on Saturday in voting for local assemblies elected for a four-year term.
Over the four years, increasing power will gradually be devolved to local power bases from the province’s UN-led administration.
Kosovo has been administered by the UN as an internationally run protectorate - with up to 40,000 NATO troops riding shotgun as security - since the Serb forces of the former president, Slobodan Milosevic, were ousted in June 1999.
Early poll results hinted that up to a third of the province’s 90,000 remaining Serbs had voted, and less than 14 per cent of the Kosovo’s Serbs living outside it.
This year, the vote of 200,000 Kosovo Serbs voting in and out of the province was considered crucial, because their participation in the political system meant that the international community could finally say that something approaching multi-ethnicity had been achieved.
It also means that Kosovo’s Serbs might now be included in UN-sponsored plans for decentralisation.