Clashes in Kosovo's Mitrovica Leave 20 Injured

World | June 23, 2014, Monday // 10:36|  views

Ethnic Serbs set up a new barricade named `Peace Park` on the main bridge of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, 18 June 2014. Photo by EPA/BGNES

A standoff between ethnic Albanian protesters and police officers erupted on Sunday in Kosovo's divided town of Mitrovica.

At least twenty people were hurt as the police was trying to disperse the hundreds-strong crowd attacking a renewed Serbian blockade at a bridge across the Ibar river, Macedonian daily Kurir reports, citing Kosovo police spokesman Avni Zahiti.

The BBC, using the same source, puts the number at 23, including 13 policemen and 10 civilians.

Ethnic Serbs, who are 10% of Kosovo's and 14% of Mitrovica's population, placed flower pots and earth at the bridge after authorities ordered the removal of the previous barricade last week.

Protesting Albanians who demand that it again be destroyed hurled stones at police and EULEX (EU legal mission to Kosovo) representatives, who had sealed off the rebuilt blockade that many call "The Park of Peace".

Officers used tear gas and stun grenades in response to the attacks.

Six vehicles were set ablaze during the riots. 

President Atifete Jahjaga urged calm in Mitrovica.

Despite tensions and violence, Kosovo authorities have vowed to remove again the bridge blockade to guarantee freedom of movement.

In Mitrovica, located in the north of Kosovo which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, the main bridge marks a line dividing the Serb- and Albanian-populated parts of the town.

The bridge blockade is designed to mark a Serb-Albanian faultine. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Serbs have long maintained they would boycott the Kosovo authorities, as Serbian capital Belgrade considers Kosovo to be one of its regions. They are still mostly refusing to take part in the democratic process and refrain from going to the polls.

Weeks ago Kosovo held early national polls after a bill envisaging the creation of a national army failed to draw support constitutionally required from the Serb minority lawmakers.

Latest clashes come amid EU-brokered talks between Belgrade and Pristina aimed at seeking common ground.

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Tags: kosovo, Serbia, Albanians, Serbs, MITROVICA, Belgrade, Pristina, Ibar, Atifete Jahjaga, EULEX, Park of Peace, Avni Zahiti


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