Three UN police officers, two Americans and a Jordanian, have been killed in northern Kosovo and 11 others were injured after a quarrel between UN officers led to an exchange of gunfire, UN and hospital sources say.
UN police spokesman Neeraj Singh says the UN officers were all stationed at a prison in the town of Kosovska Mitrovica.
Sources close to the UN mission say the incident was the result of a dispute between Middle Eastern and United States officers serving in the same international police force.
"A shooting incident involving international police officers took place in the detention centre in Kosovska Mitrovica," Mr Singh in Pristina, the capital of the UN-run Serbian province, said.
"Three international officers, two from the United States and one from Jordan, have died and another 11 have been injured. Some are in serious condition."
Hospital officials in the town, the scene of deadly ethnic violence last month between Kosovo's Serb and ethnic Albanian populations, earlier gave a toll of one US woman dead and six other officers injured in the shooting.
"Seven victims of the shooting, [all of them] UN police, arrived at the hospital, six of them were seriously injured," Milan Ivanovic, the deputy director of the hospital, said.
"An American woman died immediately from her wounds, four others are in the operation room. The injured were hit in the chest or the abdomen, four of them are women and two are men."
Serbian television channel B92 had reported a casualty toll of "at least four dead and 14 wounded" in the shootout.
It said three of the victims were US citizens and a fourth person dead was Jordanian, citing information from the official Belgrade Coordination Centre in Kosovo.
Mr Singh says an investigation is already underway.
"Forensics are at the scene and the police investigators are working on the case," he said.
The incident apparently broke out about 3:00pm local time after an argument between members of the UN police from the Middle East and others from the United States, UN sources requesting anonymity said.
The Serbian news agency Beta quoted anonymous sources saying that four Jordanian nationals working as UN police officers had been arrested after the incident and were being questioned at UN police headquarters south of Kosovska Mitrovica.
More than 3,000 international police serve as part of the UN mission in the province and are responsible for maintaining law and order.
The UN's top official in Kosovo, Harri Holkeri, expressed shock over the incident.
"I am deeply shocked and dismayed at the unfortunate death of dedicated professionals who have come such a great distance to help Kosovo on its road to the future," Mr Holkeri said.
Jordanian U.N. police officers face questioning in Kosovo shootings
Published: Tuesday, April 20, 2004
PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) — Four U.N. police officers from Jordan were stripped of their diplomatic immunity Monday to be questioned in a fellow Jordanian's killing of two American guards in Kosovo.
It wasn't clear why Sgt. Maj. Ahmed Mustafa Ibrahim Ali opened fire on a convoy of corrections officers on Saturday. He and the two female American guards were killed in the shootout that followed, and 11 people were wounded.
Ali was a member of a highly trained unit in Jordan and had been decorated for warding off an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Amman, a Jordanian official said.
A delegation of Jordanian police officials arrived Monday in Kosovo to assist with the investigation, which is led by an international prosecutor, officials said.
Eight of the 10 Americans were moved to a U.S. military base in Kosovo for treatment, a U.S. military spokesman said Monday. The other two were treated and released, and an Austrian also wounded was flown home Sunday for treatment.
One American officer remained in critical condition following brain surgery in neighboring Macedonia, U.S. peacekeeping spokesman Staff Sgt. Michael Houk said.
The attack shook the United Nations mission in Kosovo, already in turmoil following violent ethnic clashes last month between ethnic Albanians and Serbs that killed 19 and wounded more than 900 in Kosovska Mitrovica.
"The shooting struck a huge blow at the very idea of peacekeeping," said Alex Anderson, the Kosovo project director of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based organization that monitors the Balkans.
An American police officer serving with the U.N. mission in Kosovo told The Associated Press that the shooting was "clearly an attack against Americans." The officer spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials denied rumors that a quarrel about the war in Iraq had sparked the gunbattle.
"As far as we know, there was no communication between the officer who fired and the group of victims," said Neeraj Singh, a U.N. spokesman.
The officers were part of the U.N. mission that has administered Kosovo and provided security since June 1999, when Belgrade's authority over the province was removed following a NATO air war that stopped a Serb crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.
"This is a sad day for United Nations peacekeeping," said Stefan Feller, the head of the U.N. police in Kosovo. "At this stage there can be no conclusions on the reason for the shooting."
The gunbattle began as three U.N. vehicles carrying 21 U.S. correctional officers, two Turkish officers and the Austrian were leaving the prison, which was guarded by five Jordanian special police unit officers, officials said. The correctional officers, who arrived in Kosovo just 10 days ago, had been training at the prison.
Ali, 30, started firing at the convoy, Feller said, and the officers returned fire.
Jordan's government expressed regret for the shootings, a statement carried by the official Jordanian Petra agency said.
The slain Americans were identified as Kim Bigley, 47, of Paducah, Ky., and Lynn Williams, 48, of Elmont, N.Y., said Mike Dickerson, spokesman for Computer Sciences Corp. Both worked for Dyncorp, a susidiary of CSC that trains police, corrections and judicial for overseas duty.
The 3,500-strong U.N. police force includes 450 U.S. officers, most of whom work for Dyncorp. The U.N. police force works alongside 6,000 local police officers.
Source: abc.net.au / www.nytimes.com / news.bbc.co.uk / lubbockonline.com