Global30 peacekeepers wounded in violent clashes with Kosovar Serbs in Kosovo

30 peacekeepers wounded in violent clashes with Kosovar Serbs in Kosovo

The NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, on Tuesday raised to 30 the number of troops injured in heavy clashes with ethnic Serbs.

The assailants tried to take over the municipal offices in one of the towns in northern Kosovo where ethnic Albanian mayors took office last week.

Eleven Italian and 19 Hungarian soldiers “suffered multiple injuries, including fractures and burns from homemade incendiary explosive devices,” the contingent said in a statement. Three Hungarian soldiers were “injured by the use of firearms”, although their lives were not in danger.

The assailants clashed with NATO troops in the town of Zvecan, 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of the capital Pristina.

“Both parties must take full responsibility for what happened and prevent any further escalation, instead of hiding behind false messages,” said KFOR commander Maj. Gen. Angelo Michele Ristuccia.

On Tuesday there was a new call to gather ethnic Serbs.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spent the night with his troops on the border with Kosovo. The forces were on high alert by order of the president since last week. Vucic said 52 Serbs had been wounded in the clashes, three seriously.

Four people were detained, according to Kosovo police.

The violence was a new incident after tensions escalated over the past weekend, when ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo tried to prevent newly elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings. Kosovar police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd and allow the new officials to reach their offices. Serbia put its army on alert and sent more troops to the Kosovo border.

The two countries have been enemies for decades and Belgrade does not recognize the sovereignty of Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008.

The United States and the European Union have redoubled their efforts to help resolve the dispute between Kosovo and Serbia, fearing more instability in Europe as Russia’s war continues in Ukraine. The EU has made it clear to both Serbia and Kosovo that they must normalize their relations if they are to make progress towards future membership of the group.

The Western ambassadors of the so-called Fifth – France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – met in Pristina with the Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, and asked him to take measures to reduce tensions, although they also strongly condemned the violence. of Serb groups against journalists and KFOR troops.

“Serb ultranationalist graffiti on NATO vehicles is a grim reminder in Kosovo. We stand for peace and security,” Kurti said after the meeting.

The ambassadors of the Fifth were scheduled to meet with Vucic, who also expected to receive the ambassadors of Russia and China to show that he has support for their measures.

Four northern towns – Zvecan, Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Mitrovica – held elections last month that were boycotted by neighboring Kosovar Serbs. All mayoral and assembly positions went to Kosovar Albanians or representatives of another, smaller minority.

The conflict in Kosovo erupted in 1998 when Kosovar Albanian separatists rebelled against the Serb government, and Serbia responded with a brutal crackdown. Some 13,000 people died, the majority of ethnic Albanians. A NATO military intervention in 1999 forced Serbia to withdraw from the territory. Washington and most EU countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, unlike Serbia, Russia and China.

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Semini reported from Tirana, Albania. Associated Press journalist Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.

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