Balkans: Aegean Air Accident

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May 26, 2006: A Serb policemen has been arrested and charged with killing three Albanian -American brothers in 1991, when Albanians from overseas returned to help liberate Kosovo from Serbian control. Many of these Albanians were killed in the process, often after they have been taken prisoner by Serbian police and troops. The lack of arrests for these crimes has kept tensions high in Kosovo.

May 25, 2006: A group call itself the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) claimed that it had set a fire at Istanbul's airport yesterday which killed three people. The Turkish government said that the blaze was caused by an electrical short and denied that the cause was "sabotage." The TAK is a faction of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). For 24 hours the blaze was featured on news channels world-wide. Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport is a major transfer point for travelers going to Central Asia. The fire destroyed buildings in the air cargo section of the airport. Turkey remains worried about the impact of Islamist, leftist, and Kurdish (ethnic) terrorism on tourism and transportation.

May 23, 2006: A Greek F-16 fighter collided with a Turkish F-16 over the Aegean. The collision took place 400 kilometers southeast of Athens near the island of Karpathos. The Turkish pilot was quickly rescued. A search for the Greek pilot is still underway. Greek and Turk authorities reacted quickly to calm the situation. This is a change from ten years ago when Greek and Turkish aircraft buzzed one another as the two nations sparred over islets in the eastern Aegean.

Montenegro released the final results of its referendum on secession from Serbia. The vote took place on May 21. Approximately 56 percent of Montenegrins favored independence. The vote required a 55 percent :threshold" in favor of independence - and that was just met. The Serbian government said that it would recognize the results of Montenegro's vote which chose independence. Montenegro will now separate from Serbia, completing the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Montenegro was independent from 1878-1918. This could mean more demands for independence and autonomy throughout Europe. For example, Transdniester, the "statelet" within Moldova, thinks Montenegro's separation from Serbia is a favorable omen. On May 22 a Transdniester government spokesman said that Transdniester would "follow in Montenegro's footsteps" (ie, leave Moldova like Montenegro left Serbia). Transdniester is a largely Russian-ethnic enclave. (Austin Bay)

May 20, 2006: Turkey's- Prime Minister Recep Erdogan said that Turkey's "secular system" needed to be strengthened. Erdogan is head of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) which is a "moderate Islamist" party, though it refers to itself as a "conservative" party. Many secular Turks are very suspicious of Erdogan's motives. Erdogan's government faces increasing pressure to deal with Islamists. On May 18 15,000 Turks demonstrated in Ankara to protest the murder of a Turkish judge by Islamist radicals. The murder took place May 17 in Ankara. A gunman named Alparslan Arslan entered Turkey's chief administrative court, The Council of State, and shouted "I am a soldier of Allah." Arslan then shot and killed a Judge Mustafa Ozbilgin. Four other judges were wounded in the attack. Arslan is 29-years old and is a lawyer in Istanbul. The Turkish government arrested eight other people involved in the attack. One Turkish newspaper called the murder "the September 11 of the Turkish Republic."

 

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