Would German agents bomb an EU office in Pristina? Maybe, say authorities in Kosovo; "absurd," according to the government in Berlin. This difference of opinion is now threatening to become an international incident.
The men were paraded on Kosovo TV -- much to Germany's displeasure
Relations between Europe's biggest economy and the tiny former Serb province that Germany is helping to rebuild have been under a cloud since the arrest of three Germans in connection with the blast.
The men are agents of Germany's foreign intelligence service BND, according to German and Albanian media, although neither the German government nor the BND would confirm this.
A judge in Kosovo has ordered the trio to remain in investigative custody for 30 days on terrorism charges related to the Nov. 14 blast, which damaged the EU headquarters in the Kosovo capital.
German officials were outraged when the men, wearing handcuffs, were hauled before the television cameras on their way to prison after the court hearing at the weekend.
"The idea that the government of the Federal Republic of Germany could be involved in terrorist attacks is absurd," government spokesman Thomas Steg said on Monday, also ruling out involvement by government agencies like the BND.
No one is above the law, says Thaci
Thaci defended his country's actions and judiciary
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci defended the behavior of the territory's judiciary as well as that of the security services, who had reportedly been shadowing the Germans for months.
"No one is above the law ... The rule of law in Kosovo should be respected in its entirety, regardless of its national background. We should believe in the judicial bodies, and therefore should not have any prejudice or political assessments," he said.
The three Germans were not registered as intelligence agents, according to Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu. Sources said they were undercover operatives working for a BND front company called Logistic Coordination Assessment Services.
There are conflicting reports as to how they were caught. One version is they were spotted fleeing the scene after one of them tossed an explosive device at the EU office from an adjacent, empty building.
They were arrested five days later after a search of their home turned up weapons and incriminating documents, including a sketch of the premises, which houses the European Union's Special Representative for the region.
Lawyers for the men, aged between 41 and 47, were quoted in German media as saying the trio was not involved in the attack but went to the scene "out of curiosity" four hours after the blast to take photographs.
Kosovo's Koha Ditore daily said police were looking into a possible link between the attack and similar bombings in 2007, targeting the UN Mission in Kosovo, the office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Kosovo assembly building.
No injuries occurred in any of the attacks but there are similarities, such as the use of TNT and the make-up of the explosive device.
German press speculates on anti-EU cell
Some Kosovar Serbs resent the EU for its support of Kosovo's independence
Germany's mass-circulation newspaper Bild speculated the blast was the work of an anti-EU faction in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February after nine years under UN protection.
Four days before the bomb attack, the Albanian majority in Kosovo rejected a deal between the UN and Serbia for the EU police and justice mission EULEX to take over administration of the territory's law enforcement operations.
German officials are wondering how the affair managed to escalate the way it did, especially in view of the fact that Berlin has been a prominent backer of Kosovo's independence and is its biggest financial donor after the United States.
Usually in cases involving intelligence-gathering actives, foreign agents that run foul of domestic authorities are quietly ordered to leave the country away from the glare of publicity.