Fake bomb threats went wild in Kosovo – The Organization for World Peace
On June 16, the Kosovo Police (KP) reported a series of nationwide bomb threats, mostly targeted at primary schools in Serb-majority communities, which were later confirmed to be hoaxes. The KP confirmed that seventy-two schools had received anonymous bomb threats, electronically, prompting evacuations before the targeted buildings were raided by bomb disposal specialists. The danger was not limited to schools alone; Pristina International Airport was also targeted, leading to the diversion of flights and the deployment of fighter jets.
These incidents are not a new phenomenon for Kosovar nationals. The first false bomb threat was sounded in December 2021, and the atmosphere has since intensified amid deteriorating security in the Balkans. The wave of bomb threats also affected neighboring Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro. Kosovo is therefore not alone in facing the challenges of cyberterrorism; rather, he seems to be a victim of Serbia’s foreign policy towards Russia.
Since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Serbian government has had to deal with thousands of threats directed against the country’s critical infrastructure, with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic calling the wave of false alerts a “form of premeditated pressure”. . not to impose sanctions on the Russian Federation. Serbia, unlike the entire European community, has not imposed economic sanctions and is one of the few European countries that continues to operate flights to Moscow or St. Petersburg.
It is no coincidence that these threats occur both in Serbia and in Kosovo. The schools that have been targeted in the latter country are those run by the Serbian government, operating under a parallel education system in Kosovo that predated the 1998-99 conflict. A message, written in Cyrillic, received by a school in the district of Pristina spoke of “overthrowing the Serbian government”. Another sent to a Serbian-affiliated news agency in northern Mitrovica included the phrase “Glory to Ukraine.” Both messages indicate a willingness on the part of the author to present the threats in Kosovo as a direct consequence of Serbia’s inaction towards Russia.
Serbian politicians were quick to blame pro-Ukrainian forces. In April, when a series of false bomb threats were issued against Air Serbia flights to Russia, President Aleksander Vucic alleged that Ukraine’s intelligence services were guilty, a claim dismissed as false by the ministry Ukrainian Foreign Affairs. On the other hand, the reaction of the Kosovar government was more discreet, refusing to get involved in the public quarrel between Serbia and Ukraine.
The continuing bogus bomb threats in Kosovo could have long-term implications. Although these are hoaxes, each threat must be thoroughly investigated, which involves time-consuming evacuations before a return to normality is possible. A constant wave of these threats can drain police resources and impact other police services.
The wave of threats on June 16 coincided with protests by hundreds of former combatants outside parliament in Pristina, perhaps to maximize the disruption caused. As noted by Adis Balota, a professor at the Faculty of Information Technology in Podgorica, the false alerts appear to be synchronized, aimed at crippling institutions and spreading insecurity.
This insecurity will also have repercussions on education. The constant disruption of schooling will have resulted in many hours of lost learning for students and the creation of a climate of fear around public institutions, especially at a time when the education system is still recovering from the pandemic.
However, there is progress to be made. In May, Serbian police announced that they had traced several bomb threats in seven countries. A month later, a Gambian citizen was arrested on a tip from the Serbian government via Interpol, highlighting the importance of information sharing between police forces of different nations. For Kosovo, in order to mitigate these long-term consequences, it will be necessary to emphasize greater international cooperation with its neighbours.