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US Soldier Charged with Killing Kosovo-girl

January 18, 2000 · 

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VITINA, Serbia-A US soldier in Kosovo was charged on Sunday with murdering a local 12-year-old ethnic Albanian girl, US forces said.

The soldier, 35-year-old Staff Sgt. Frank Ronghi, was also charged with committing indecent acts with a child, the chief of staff for Kosovo’s US-led Military sector said.

“I’d like to express our heartfelt and deepest condolences to the family of the victim,” somber Col. Ellis Golson told reporters at Camp Bondsteel, the main US base in Kosovo.

Outside the girl’s home in the town of Viena, about 15 km from the giant military camp in eastern Kosovo, neighbors gathered to offer sympathy and support to her family.

Some complained at the general behavior of US troops. But the victim’s distraught father, clutching a photograph from military authorities of his daughter on a mortuary slab, said he felt no anger toward American soldiers in general.

“You can’t blame the whole army. You, can’t blame the commander,” said Hamdi Shabiu, sobbing as he talked to reporters outside his home. “We want to know who this soldier was…. Why did they allow such a soldier to come here?”

The picture he held showed the head of his daughter Merite, her skin pale and apparently bruised, resting on a white pillow with her light brown hair swept back.

Ronghi, from the Third Batallion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg North Carolina but currently stationed in Vitina, was detained immediately after the discovery of the girl’s body on Thursday, US forces spokeswoman maj. Debbie Allen said.

The killing provoked shock across Kosovo, which is home to more than 40,000 troops from the Nato-led KFOR peacekeeping force. They were deployed in the region in June after alliance bombing drove Serb forces out of the southern Yugoslav province.

Inside the family’s simple house, women gathered to console the girl’s mother in a-bare-walled room with few furnishings. The woman wailed asd Remzie Shabiu recounted how the family had survived Serb terror only to face tragedy now.

“She walked barefoot for 30 km when we escpaed from the Serbs,” she said. “But now…” Her voice traile off.

Although no longer met with the euphoria are generally given awarm reception by Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians who see them as guarantors against the return of repressive Serb forces.

KFOR commander Gen. Klaus Reinhardt said he was filled with horror and anger.

Vitina residents were shocked that someone from a nation they idolized had committed such a crime. “We thought they were the most civilized people in the world,” one man remarked.

Reuters

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