Popova, a well-known, ethnic Albanian journalist, was shot and killed in his hometown of Vucitrn, 12 miles northwest of Pristina, according to the United Nations police Web site (www.civpol.org). Two unidentified men were seen running away after the shooting, which occurred near the town’s municipal office building at 11:25 p.m.
Popova, 50, died shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital run by United Arab Emirates peacekeeping forces. It was unclear whether Popova’s death related to his work at the Albanian-language daily Rilindja. During the last 26 years, Popova had contributed numerous articles to Rilindja and had also reported for the newspaper’s radio station.
A colleague of Popova’s at Rilindja told CPJ that Popova had written about war crimes committed in Kosovo by ethnic Serbs and that he believed some of the Serbs involved may have killed Popova in retribution.
However, other sources pointed out that Popova was also active in local politics, which often feature killings motivated by rivalry between different ethnic Albanian parties. At the time of his death, he was running in municipal elections in Vucitrn as a candidate of the Social Democratic Party of Kosovo. Finally, cooperation with the international community is a very sensitive issue within the ethnic Albanian community. Some local sources speculated that Popova might have been killed for setting up meetings between international officials and nongovernmental organizations in Vucitrn.