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Kosovo man's deadly attack on US soldiers dismays fellow countrymen

A Kosovo man's deadly attack on American soldiers at Frankfurt's airport has shocked those back in Kosovo, many of whom remember the American military as a protective ally during their war in the late 1990s.

A bullet hole in the windshield of the American military bus

People in Kosovo can't believe a compatriot targeted Americans

When it was confirmed that a Kosovo man was behind the attack on American soldiers at Frankfurt airport that left two dead and two others in critical condition earlier this week, the people of Kosovo were stunned.

"This attack was macabre, tragic news for the Kosovo people," Bajram Rexhepi, Kosovo's interior minister, said.

"We are all deeply moved here. We just can't believe it. The United States is the country that helped us most in our most difficult moments."

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci shake hands

The US was one of the first to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation

The US played a leading role in the NATO bombing campaign that drove Serb forces out of Kosovo in 1999. The US was also one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in 2008.

Many Kosovo citizens have declared their solidarity with the attack victims, the US troops and the American people. A minute of silence was held for the victims in parliament and hundreds attended candlelight vigils for the US soldiers in the capital, Pristina, and in Mitrovica. They described the attacker as "a criminal, who doesn't reflect the beliefs of the people of Kosovo in any way."

The 21-year-old ethnic Albanian Arid U., who had been living in Frankfurt, confessed on Friday to targeting the Americans in an act of revenge for the US military intervention in Afghanistan.

Extremists take advantage of power vacuum

More than 90 percent of the citizens of Kosovo are Muslim. Religion, however, has never played an important role in Kosovo - that is until recently. After the war ended in 1999 there was a power vacuum that some radical religious groups exploited to develop their activities.

Now members of these groups can be seen on the streets, in the schools and in the mosques. They're often violent, even against other members of the Muslim community. "It's high time to do something against these groups," said political analyst Mufail Limani.

"The Kosovo government, and especially the education ministry, should take immediate steps to make sure that boys and girls from the poorest Kosovo families don't go off to study in Arab countries," he said. "There they are seduced by various extremist groups and then they bring those extremists' ideas back to Kosovo."

But neither analysts nor politicians believe that there's a serious threat against the international forces in Kosovo. Interior Minister Rexhepi agrees but says he can't entirely rule out the possibility of a a terrorist attack.

"Theoretically there is always the possibility of an attack," he said. "But so far we have not had attacks. I think it's not just the government institutions of Kosovo that will make sure an attack doesn't happen. The citizens of Kosovo will not allow such a thing to happen."

Author: Bahri Cani / hf
Editor: Susan Houlton

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