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EU steps up probe into Kosovo organ-trafficking claims

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(PRISTINA) - The EU mission in Kosovo (EULEX) has set up a task force to beef up a probe into a Council of Europe report linking prime minister Hashim Thaci to organ trafficking, a spokesman said Friday.

"EULEX, with the full support of all 27 EU member states, has decided to set up a task force to further the investigation into the allegations made by the Council of Europe rapporteur, senator Dick Marty," EULEX's spokesman Blerim Krasniqi told AFP.

The panel, to include prosecutors and investigators, will reinforce a preliminary investigation launched by EULEX in late January, he said.

Marty said in a report released in December that Thaci headed a Kosovo guerrilla faction that controlled secret detention centres where Kosovo Serbs and Albanians considered collaborators were held in Albania.

He reported allegations that human organ trafficking took place in three of these centres in the aftermath of the 1998-99 war between the Kosovo Liberation Army's guerrillas and Serbian forces.

Serbia has been pushing for an independent UN-backed probe into the claims as it says EULEX is not mandated to investigate crimes committed in Albania.

Krasniqi, noting the international dimension of the probe, said the task force would be "partly based" in Brussels.

"This is a testimony to the importance the EU pays to the proper handling of this issue," he said.

The Kosovo conflict ended after a NATO air campaign ousted then Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's forces from the territory paving the way for establishment of the UN administration over Kosovo.

EULEX was launched in Kosovo only months after it declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

It is mandated to oversee and strengthen the rule of law area and take on cases considered too sensitive for the local judiciary.

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