A total of 25 NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers were injured during renewed clashes in northern Kosovo with ethnic Serbs who were trying to break into the offices of one of the municipalities where ethnic Albanian mayors took office last week, the agency reported on Monday.
The Serbs began clashes with the police on Monday morning in the municipality of Zvecan, located about 45 kilometers north of the capital Pristina. In the afternoon, KFOR soldiers asked the Serbs to make way for two vehicles of the Kosovo special police forces.
Subsequently, as protesters continued to block the passage, soldiers fired tear gas and flash grenades to protect the Kosovo officers inside the vehicles and disperse the protesters, according to witnesses and local press reports.
The Serbs, meanwhile, responded by throwing stones and other objects.
“Several soldiers from the Italian and Hungarian KFOR contingent were subjected to unprovoked attacks and suffered trauma injuries with fractures and burns due to the explosion of explosive devices,” the peace corps said in a statement.
The head of the mission, General Angelo Michele Ristucciadescribed the attacks as unacceptable and assured that KFOR will continue to carry out its mission impartially.
Some Kosovo police vehicles and one belonging to journalists were damaged during the clash. Images showed that the vehicles were painted with Serbian nationalist symbols.
The clashes also left at least 50 protesters injured. The people were treated in a hospital with ailments caused by tear gas poisoning and bruises, three were hospitalized and one person suffered serious gunshot wounds and his life is in danger, reported the director of the Mitrovica Clinical Center, Zlatan Elekaccording to the station N1.
The United States and the European Union have denounced attacks by Serbian protesters against NATO forces.
The Serbs, a minority in Kosovo but a majority group in the north of the country, protested in front of the Town Hall of the town of Zvecan to demand the withdrawal of the new mayor, of the Albanian majority.
Hundreds of Serbs demonstrated today in three municipalities in northern Kosovo to demand the withdrawal from the municipalities of the new mayors elected last April in elections boycotted by the Serb community, the majority in those municipalities.
Soldiers from the KFOR mission, in charge of monitoring security in Kosovo, were deployed between units of the Kosovar special police, which is located in front of the municipal facilities, and the protesters.
The Serbs of northern Kosovo do not recognize the authority of the new mayors, elected last April in elections in which the participation was barely 3% due to the boycott of the Serbs, who are a minority in Kosovo but a large majority in four municipalities in the north of Kosovo.
The elections were organized after the representatives of the Kosovo Serbs withdrew from Kosovo’s institutions last November to denounce the discrimination they claim they suffer from the central government.
Pristina rejected the proposal of the US ambassador, Jeffery Hovenierso that, in the interest of de-escalation, the new mayors exercise their positions from other facilities.
It is the latest incident of violence after tensions escalated last week when Serbia ordered its military forces to go on high alert and deploy more troops to the border with Kosovo, which declared independence from Belgrade in 2008. .
The President of Serbia, Alexander Vucicaccused the prime minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, of provoking the incidents, having used special police forces.
Vucic asked the Kosovo Serbs that they demonstrate peacefully and that they “do not enter into conflicts with NATO”.
Kosovo and Serbia have been rivals for decades and Belgrade refuses to recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty.
(With information from AP and EFE)
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