Balkans: Contract Killers and the Code


June 16, 2007: Albania is still a pretty unique place, especially in the hills, where clans still run the show. At one time blood feuds were the bane of Albania. These were usually family honor feuds that would continue through generations. Modern Albania has added a new wrinkle: the professional murderer conducting the honor killing "on contract." Most of the continuing feuds are found the outlying areas. The Albanian government is concerned enough to have directed that the police identify families involved in blood feuds and to try to end the fighting. The police identified 78 "blood feud" murders in 2006. In the past the old Albanian clan laws (the "Kanun", the "Code") governed how feuds would be conducted. The clan laws didn't disappear with Communism, though Enver Hoxha's government tried to suppress them. It isn't clear how much weight the Kanun still has. Typically the clan elders interpreted it. Individual action to kill someone was sanctioned. It's doubtful that the Kanun allows for contract killers. A larger element in this story is the Albanian government's attempt to impose democratic laws in the mountains. Old traditions do fade, but sometimes they mutate. Albanian 21st century blood feuds look like one of those dangerous mutations.

June 12, 2007: A group of Bosnian Serbs is demanding that it have the right to vote in Serbian elections. The group says that the Bosnian Serb "statelet," the Republika Srpska, has a "special relationship" with Serbia. This looks a bit like secession without secession. The Bosnian Serbs definitely want a say in Serbian policy making and voting is a way to have a say. The demand also is something of a "mirror" image of autonomy and "relationship" demands by ethnic Albanians living in Serbia's Presevo Valley.

June 11, 2007: Serbian police found a weapons cache in south Serbia. The police arrested "three suspected Islamic terrorists" who later told them about the weapons cache (several thousand weapons and 33 pounds of explosives). The number of weapons sounds like an exaggeration, unless the men arrested were also involved in a weapons smuggling operation - which is possible. Police thought the weapons came from Kosovo.

June 10, 2007: The Albanian view of recent history portrays the United States as both rescuer and champion. Albanians remember that it was American diplomats that stood up for Albanian independence after World War I, and have supported democracy in Albania ever since. It was American armed forces that drove the Serbs out of Kosovo in 1999, and U.S. peacekeepers who have protected Albanians ever since. American economic aid to Albania over the last decade has created vigorous GDP growth and visible prosperity. On the down side, Serbia, the dominant minority in the Balkans, sees the United States as pro-Albanian (true) and anti-Serbian (not true). While Albanians are good friends to have, the Serbs are the most important friends to have.

June 7, 2007: Serbian sources report that ethnic Albanians living in Serbia's Presevo Valley region (which lies next to Kosovo) are "split" by appeals from militants to join with Kosovo. The "secessionist movement" has not gained traction. The Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), which is a Serbian party made of up Albanians (obviously) rejected the idea, as did a Presevo Valley political group.


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