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Assailants attack home of Kosovos prime minister; his is away and family is safe
Kosovo Attack PRI10 6458825
A Kosovan police officer stands guard in front of the sealed road leading to the residence of Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Pristina Saturday, June 7, 2008 after armed assailants tried to break in. Thaci's security guards exchanged fire with the intruders, injuring at least one assailant. - photo by Associated Press
    PRISTINA, Kosovo — Armed assailants trying to break into the home of Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci exchanged fire with guards, but the leader was away and his family was not hurt, police said Saturday.
    Police later said they had arrested a 19-year-old ethnic Albanian man suspected in the shooting. They said they found the suspect, who is known to authorities, after a tip-off from his father.
    The teenager has a wound to his arm, leading police to believe he was shot in a shootout with Thaci’s security guards.
    Thaci condemned the assault as an attack upon his family and urged Kosovo’s citizens to remain calm.
    ‘‘Last night my family was attacked,’’ Thaci told reporters in the capital, Pristina. ‘‘Like any parent and husband I am happy that my family is safe.’’
    ‘‘No one will have the power to threaten independence, democratic order, rule of law, the freedom and security of the citizen of the Republic of Kosovo,’’ Thaci said.
    Police said Thaci’s security guards spotted one person trying to break into the two-story house from the balcony of the top floor. They exchanged fire with an unknown number of assailants, who did not manage to get into the house. The attackers escaped but at least one was believed to be injured as traces of blood were found.
    Thaci, the former political head of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rebels, the Kosovo Liberation Army, is regarded as the key figure in pushing for Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. Kosovo declared independence on Feb. 17 following close coordination with Western capitals. The declaration is fiercely opposed by Serbia.
    Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuqi said Thaci had been away on a private visit at the time of the attack. He said authorities have increased security measures for government officials.
    Kuqi called the attack ‘‘a criminal act’’ and said, ‘‘it goes beyond any political hatred.’’
    Police began a search and tightened security at Kosovo’s border crossings to prevent the suspects from fleeing, a police official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation.
    The attackers were believed to have dragged the injured assailant to a car and sped off, the official said.
    Thaci’s home is in a suburb of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, that is the site of most embassies and diplomatic residences.
    Relations between ethnic Albanian political parties in Kosovo have been marked by tensions and bitter rivalry. Thaci heads an uneasy coalition government forged with the party of late pacifist President Ibrahim Rugova, once his main rival.
    He is also at odds with former rebel commander Ramush Haradinaj who was recently acquitted by the U.N. tribunal of war crimes charges and has returned to Kosovo to lead his party, now in opposition.
    Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo condemned the attack and urged authorities to find the perpetrators.
    ‘‘Such criminal acts damage the positive image of the state of Kosovo,’’ the party said in a statement sent to the AP.
    Kuqi refused to be drawn into commenting on who was behind the attack and called upon authorities to conduct a swift investigation.
    ‘‘We don’t want to believe that this is due to political hatred,’’ Kuqi said. ‘‘We trust the authorities and they will have their say.’’

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