11/25/2008 01:52 PM

German Spy Scandal

Kosovo Claims to Have Video of 'Terrorism'

Three alleged German spies detained over the weekend in Kosovo are suspected of "terrorism" in connection with a minor blast outside an EU building in Pristina. Now Kosovo authorities say they have video evidence, but Germany says it's a frame-up job.

Kosovo police claim they have a video showing a German spy tossing an explosive charge over a wall at a European Union building in the Kosovo capital of Pristina. The video, however, hasn't been released, and the German government -- in a controversy that has roiled relations between Berlin and Kosovo -- has vehemently denied the charges.

"The idea that the German government could be involved in terrorist attacks abroad is absurd," German government spokesman Thomas Steg told a news conference on Monday.

Kosovo police guarding the headquarters of the European Union mission in Kosovo.

Kosovo police guarding the headquarters of the European Union mission in Kosovo.

Three German citizens were detained for 30 days in Kosovo after questioning last Saturday in connection with a minor nighttime explosion at the International Civilian Office, where the EU's Special representative Pieter Feith is charged with overseeing Kosovo's new government.

SPIEGEL has information suggesting the men, reportedly ranging in age from 41 to 47, are indeed agents of Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND. Kosovo claims they have no diplomatic passports, and other German media have reported that the men were "borrowed" from the German military, which has forces in the area. The German government has not clarified who they are. It admits they were outside the building on November 14, but says they were inspecting the scene of the crime.

The German government is also aware of a video related to the crime, but claims no faces are visible.

Anti-European Radicals?

In the absence of clear facts, both sides are playing a game of diplomatic denial and accusation. Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has said, "No one has an interest in politicizing this affair," while the BND itself claims extremist elements in Kosovo were behind the attack. Some elements of the Pristina government oppose any foreign involvement, the BND argues, so the attack may have been the work of the anti-European radicals.

But the German parliament wants details. Max Stadler, deputy chairman of a commission that oversees the BND, told the International Herald Tribune on Monday that "Germany supports EU policy in Kosovo and as such it would make no sense to attack the EU building in Pristina." But he added, "These are public charges of a grave nature. Even if, as I hope and believe, there is nothing to this, the (German) government should clarify it."

Germany has been one of the strongest supporters of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. Russia and Serbia have refused to recognize the new government, but Berlin has promised €100 million in development aid over the next two years.

The BND is active in Kosovo, possibly to keep track of where the aid money goes. BND reports have suggested that Kosovo's new government is rife with organized crime.

The attack in Pristina on November 14 shattered windows in the building but hurt no one. It came four days after Kosovo's leaders rejected a plan by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the deployment of an EU police and justice mission called EULEX.

EULEX is meant to take over some duties from UN peacekeepers, who have occupied Kosovo since the 1999 NATO bombing campaign which ended a brutal Serbian crackdown on Kosovo's Albanian separatists.

msm -- with wire services


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