Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2013 19:07:45 +0100 (MET)

PODGORICA, Montenegro, Dec 27, 2013 (AFP) - An explosion has shattered the offices of an opposition newspaper in Montenegro, which is highly critical of the country's authorities and has been the target of other attacks, officials said Friday.   No one was injured in the blast caused by an explosive device which took place shortly before midnight (2300 GMT) on Thursday, police said in a statement, adding that an investigation was under way.

Mihailo Jovovic, the editor-in-chief of Vijesti, said the blast caused "serious damage" to the offices. At the time of the attack, Jovovic and 15 journalists were inside.   "This is an unprecedented terrorist attack on our newspaper and an assassination attempt on Jovovic," Vijesti manager Zeljko Ivanovic said.   The European Union mission in Montenegro called on the authorities "to immediately investigate and prosecute without any delay the perpetrators of this unacceptable attack."   Ivanovic said the violence was the "expected epilogue of a years-long campaign" of Montenegrin veteran Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his government and party "against independent media and primarily Vijesti."

Thursday's blast was the latest in a series of attacks on Vijesti and its journalists, known for its reporting on corruption affairs involving high-ranking politicians.   In August, a bomb exploded outside the home of a Vijesti journalist investigating links between authorities and organised crime bosses in northern Montenegro.   Vijesti offices were pelted with stones and fire bombs in skirmishes between extremists and the police during the first gay pride march in the capital in October.

In March 2012, another Vijesti journalist reporting on illegal cigarettes trade between Montenegro and Kosovo was beaten in front of her house. The attacker was sentenced to nine months in prison, but his motives were not revealed at the trial.   Cars belonging to the paper were torched in 2011, while Jovovic himself was beaten by a driver of then Podgorica mayor for reporting on his son's alleged involvement in illegal activities.   Montenegro, a tiny Adriatic country of 650,000, began EU accession talks last year.
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 18:28:32 +0200 (METDST)

PODGORICA, Aug 27, 2012 (AFP) - Two Czech nationals were found dead on Monday in the Prokletije mountains in Montenegro, police said. Police did not reveal the identities of the victims, believed to be alpinists who had tried to climb one of the peaks of Prokletije, the mountain range that streches through Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo. On Sunday, a German tourist was killed when he slipped from a cliff on the Durmitor mountain.
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2012 15:24:46 +0200 (METDST)
by Olivera Nikolic

PODGORICA, July 25, 2012 (AFP) - Some 800 Kosovo Roma, including children, were left homeless after a fire tore through a shantytown refugee camp on the outskirts of the Montenegrin capital Podgorica, officials said Wednesday. No one was hurt and it is not clear what started the blaze in the camp, where the Council of Europe in February described living conditions as "inhuman and hazardous".

The fire broke out early Tuesday and quickly reduced the camp, which consisted of some 40 wooded shacks, to ashes. "The fire started while we were sleeping. It is a miracle that there were no victims," Ljatif Ajdezi, who came to Montenegro from Kosovo in 1999 with nine other family members, told AFP. "I ran out in shorts, everything I owned burned in less than an hour," he said, staring at the burned-out shell of his home.

The so-called Konik camp, built near a garbage dump, is one of the biggest settlements for Roma refugees in Montenegro. It had no electricity, no cooking facilities, no running water and no sanitation, the Council of Europe said in its February report that urged the government to close the camp and find permanent housing for its inhabitants. The Montenegrin authorities said Konik, which was set up during the 1998-199 Kosovo conflict, was housing some 800 refugees including 50 children when the fire started.

The Red Cross set up several tents close to Konik camp to provide shelter for the homeless while five families were housed temporarily in a nearby school and others moved in with friends or relatives. But some refugees refused the offer of tents and demanded permanent housing instead. "This provisional solution has lasted 13 years and now the authorities are giving us tents. This is torture," angry refugee Buja Dzimaili said. About 50 refugees gathered outside the local office of the UN refugee organisation UNHCR to protest against the tents.

The head of Montenegro's bureau for refugees, Zeljko Sofranac, said the fire would speed up efforts to find a permanent solution for the refugee families. The European Union earlier this year pledged some 2.5 million euros ($3 million) in funds to resolve the refugee housing issue. Montenegro, a tiny Balkans country with 650,000 inhabitants, still houses over 12,000 refugees from the 1990s Balkans wars. Many Roma fled from Kosovo to neighbouring Montenegro during the 1998-99 conflict between Serb troops and ethnic Albanian rebels.
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2011 15:57:36 +0100 (MET)

PODGORICA, Montenegro, Jan 12, 2011 (AFP) - Health authorities in Montenegro on Wednesday reported that an elderly woman who contracted the H1N1 virus became the first swine flu casualty in the country in 2011.   "A 64-year-old woman infected with the H1N1 virus died Wednesday," Montenegro's main hospital, the Clinical Centre in Podgorica, said in a statement.   A further seven people have been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus but their condition is stable, the health authorities said.
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2010 05:05:46 +0100 (MET)
by Olivera Nikolic

MOJKOVAC, Serbia, Dec 29, 2010 (AFP) - Once reputed as the most polluted spot in Montenegro, the remote northern town of Mojkovac is trying to shake off the stigma, clean up and promote itself as a new Balkans eco-tourism hub.   For more than a decade, some 2.5 tons of rubbish and toxic waste from a nearby zinc mine were deposited in a make-shift dump, which worried locals called the "silent killer".   "We have been swallowing poison from the dump and paid for it with our lives and health," environmental activist Mile Mrdovic told AFP.   The mine closed in 1991, at the start of the Balkan wars. But the dump -- an 18-hectare (44-acre) stretch of cracked gray soil -- still resembles a giant ink spot in an otherwise pristine landscape boasting three mountains, two national parks and the Tara, one of Europe's cleanest rivers.

The Tara cuts through a gorge that forms one of the continent's longest canyons, parts of which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1980s.   Its "wild beauty" -- vaunted by the national tourism board -- draws cyclists, rafters and hikers from home and abroad, some as far as Finland, Spain and the United States, to a region that remains poorer and less-developed than the rest of the country.   Yet few of these visitors venture into Mojkovac -- a situation local officials want to change.   They insist that all toxic elements from the dump have been "stabilised" through a sanitation process that started in 2007.   "The dust is not dangerous," said Mojkovac mayor Milorad Mitrovic.   Yet on a recent visit, dust from the old dump stung the eyes and nose and left an acid taste in the mouth.

After 30 minutes, visitors had a lingering headache.   "The dust hovering in the air is dangerous," insisted local doctor Milovan Bogavac. In the absence of any official surveys or evaluations, one can only suspect that "there are cancerous elements in the dust," he told AFP   He and others hold it responsible for an increase in cancer and respiratory diseases among the 10,000-strong population of Mojkovac and its surroundings, which lie some 90 kilometers (54 miles) from the capital Podgorica.   In his own practice, Bogavac said he had observed "an increased number of patients complaining of breathing troubles and inflammation of eyelids, as well as cancer patients."

Local officials launched the clean-up under pressure from residents and the government, which is helping foot the bill along with the UN Development Programme (UNDP).   It involves solidifying the chemical run-off and toxic waste in the former dump to prevent it from evaporating or draining into the Tara river.   The next step aims to cover the solids with humus and gravel to seal in any toxic dirt, a 1.5 million-euro (two million-dollar) process delayed by legal wrangling but finally begun in October.   The goal is to transform this former industrial zone into a trendy recreational center for adventure and eco-tourists, including an eco-village and small hotels.   Plans also call for building a sports center right over the "sanitised" dump -- a project valued at eight million dollars. Once the final phase of the clean-up is finished, the search for investors will begin.
  
-- 'A good chance for citizens' --
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Municipal officials also want to develop organic agriculture and reconvert the closed mine into a museum, an underground bicycle trail or some other attraction.    "As much as this waste dump has given us problems, worries, illnesses and deaths, we now expect it to repay its debt to us and become a valuable tourist and sports potential," Bogavac said.   The project is part of a UNDP-backed Western Balkans Regional Environmental Hot Spots Programme, a three-year initiative funded by the Netherlands to assist areas in the region blighted by industrial pollution.   It is also in line with national goals.

In 1991, Montenegro was the first country in the world to proclaim itself an "ecological state," a move to make ecology and sustainability operative choices in state policy.   In 2010, the government earmarked 22 million euros (30.4 million dollars) for the environmental ministry alone to help meet "green" goals.   One high-profile backer of Mojkovac's conversion is town native Nebojsa Bogavac, 37, a professional basketball player who plays in the French national league. While home in Mojkovac nursing an injury in 2009 he started an eco-tourism firm that runs jeep safaris across the country.

With its lack of infrastructure, educational opportunities and jobs, many, like Bogavac, felt forced to leave the area.   "This is a good chance for citizens of Mojkovac to remain here and not to leave the town seeking better life, as has been the case in the past two decades," he told AFP.   The UNDP remains optimistic, despite lingering concern over pollution.   "Experts have confirmed that heavy metals are stabilised," said Borko Vulikic, a UNDP coordinator in Montenegro. He conceded there has been no "recent" analysis of heavy metal presence in air, water and land, but said "the UNDP has prepared a plan to follow these parameters."   UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, New Zealand's former prime minister, was also encouraging on a visit here in September.   "Opportunities for eco-tourism are endless," she said. "You can do anything out there in those hills and valleys."
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