Responsibility Not Set in Reporter’s Death

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(AP) A NATO investigation of a 2001 mortar barrage that killed an Associated Press Television News journalist and two others in Kosovo failed to determine whether the attack was launched by the Macedonian army or by rebel forces.

Kerem Lawton, 30, a British national based in the Kosovo capital Pristina, and two ethnic Albanians were fatally injured when up to 19 mortars fell on the Kosovo village of Krivenik about 1,200 yards from the Macedonian border during fighting between Macedonian government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels.

Both the Macedonian army and the rebel National Liberation Army denied responsibility for the March 29, 2001 attack, in which 10 people were also wounded. Krivenik had a population of about 370 people, all ethnic Albanians.

NATO, which was supervising the Kosovo peacekeeping mission, finished its investigation one month after the attack but released the findings only Thursday. The alliance said the Macedonian Defense Ministry provided its own report Jan. 22 but neither it nor talks with former rebel commanders shed light on responsibility.

The alliance said the mortars could have been fired from either Macedonian or rebel positions near Krivenik and that “evidence uncovered by the investigation is therefore insufficient to authoritatively determine who attacked Krivenik … or why the attack was conducted.”

According to the report, the attack followed a week of fighting between the Macedonians and ethnic Albanian rebels, who were trying to protect supply lines and sanctuaries along the Kosovo-Macedonian border. NATO-led peacekeepers from Poland and Ukraine had been trying to cut rebel supply lines, the report said.

The day before the attack, Macedonian forces launched an offensive against ethnic Albanian rebels around the town of Gracani, sending some rebels fleeing north toward Krivenik.

Mortar shells began falling on Krivenik about 9 a.m., the report said. About a dozen peacekeepers rushed to the village to investigate. As they were inspecting damage, about three or four other mortars exploded in rapid succession, mortally wounding Lawton who had just arrived in the village by car.

As the shelling continued, a peacekeeper helicopter flew over the area but was unable to identify the sources of fire, the report said. Both sides used the same type of mortars that were fired on Krivenik, the report said.

The report said an analysis of the craters left by the explosions indicated “the mortars could have been fired from either the Kosovo or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia sides of the border and from locations where both (the Macedonian army) and the (rebel) forces were known or suspected to be operating,” the report added.

Lawton was born in Brussels, Belgium, and grew up in England. He received his university degree in England, winning honors in Turkish and German. He was bilingual in English and Turkish and also spoke German and French.

Twenty-seven AP journalists have died in the line of duty since the news cooperative was founded in 1848.

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