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The Army has fined two Minnesota National Guard soldiers and reprimanded four others for mistreating Kosovo residents during a cordon-and-search operation in the NATO-controlled province this spring.

The soldiers, whose names and ranks were not released, were then assigned to Task Force Falcon’s 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment. The Guard unit is based at Albert Lea, Minn.

They received nonjudicial, or administrative, punishment, according to a news release issued Wednesday by U.S. Army Europe.

Maj. Gen. Bennie E. Williams, commander of the 21st Theater Support Command, imposed the punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Williams is the court-martial convening authority for U.S. Army forces serving in Kosovo.

One soldier was found guilty of one count of maltreatment of detainees, the release said. He was ordered to forfeit $3,380 in pay, USAREUR spokesman Michael Tolzmann said.

Another soldier was found guilty of a single charge of obstruction of justice. He was ordered to pay $1,804.

The two soldiers appealed the punishment to the USAREUR deputy commander, Lt. Gen. William E. Ward, who denied the appeals.

Williams reprimanded the other four soldiers. He found a seventh soldier not guilty of all charges. All seven soldiers have redeployed to the United States.

Two Kosovars charged that the soldiers mistreated locals during an April 22 cordon and search in the eastern Serbian enclave of Vrbovac. The operation, in which troops close off an area for house-to-house searches, was conducted following riots on March 17 that killed 19 people, mostly in Mitrovica near the Kosovo-Serbia border.

The United Nations and NATO took control of Kosovo in 1999 after a 78-day bombing campaign to halt a civil war between Yugoslavs and Albanian separatists.


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