UN probes Kosovo police role in bomb attack

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PRISTINA, Serbia, Oct 1 (Reuters) United Nations police in Kosovo are investigating the possible involvement of the province's own police force in a bomb blast last week that killed two people, a spokesman for the Kosovo police said.

Veton Elshani said UN police had seized seven police vehicles from a station in the southern town of Urosevac for examination, after witnesses reported seeing police vehicles at the scene before the blast in the early hours of September 24.

Elshani said he could not rule out the possibility that the explosion, which tore through shops and cafes in the capital Pristina killing two people and injuring nine, was linked to the murder in August of Kosovo police officer Triumf Riza.

''We will return the vehicles soon, and we might take other cars from other stations,'' said Elshani. ''It could be linked to the Riza murder. We do not exclude anything, or any link.'' Police originally said the bomb attack was criminally motivated, rather than linked to the Albanian majority territory's stalled bid for independence from Serbia after eight years as a de facto UN protectorate.

Local media said the target was a gang leader suspected of involvement in the murder of Riza, who was gunned down on August 30 in Pristina. The gang leader was not among the bomb victims.

If police involvement were confirmed it would come as a blow to the credibility of the force, hailed by the UN mission in Kosovo as one of the major success stories in the territory since the 1998-99 war.

A UN police spokewoman said she had no further details on the investigation. The UN mission also had no comment.

Serbia's southern province, where 90 per cent of the two million people are ethnic Albanians, has been run by the United Nations since NATO bombs drove out Serb forces in 1999 to halt the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in a two-year counter-insurgency war.

REUTERS SKB RN1606

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