fairn.png
Thursday October 21st, 2021 9:23PM

Kosovo police clash with ethnic Serbs during smuggling raids

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia resumed Wednesday after Kosovo police clashed with ethnic Serbs during an anti-smuggling operation. At least 11 people were injured.

The episode prompted an angry response from Serbia which demanded from the international community, including the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, KFOR, to restore order and prevent “wider chaos.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic blamed “big Western powers" for failing to protect Kosovo Serbs and said if they don't do it, Serbia will.

“Let me be crystal clear, we will defend our people...and in that battle we will win," Vucic said during a meeting with Kosovo Serb representatives close to the border with Kosovo.

The Balkan region is already on edge after a border dispute last month between Kosovo and Serbia over vehicle license plates threatened to spiral into violence. But Western officials intervened and KFOR forces were deployed to the area, ending the spat.

A Kosovo police statement said Wednesday's raids over the smuggling of goods were held in four areas, including northern Mitrovica, which is mostly populated by ethnic Serbs. It said that “criminal groups gathered in an organized way to block roads with vehicles, used liquid gas tanks, stun bombs, shot with weapons and hand grenades to hamper and attack custom and police officials committing their duty.”

Police said 10 officers and a Serb civilian were injured during the clashes. Eight Serbs and Albanians were arrested and 10 others declared at large, according to Kosovo police head Samedin Mehmeti, who added that calm had been restored.

“There has been no activity directed against the Serb community in Kosovo,” Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said at a news conference, adding that most of the arrested were Albanians who were defying the laws with their alleged smuggling.

Petar Petkovic, a Serbian government official in charge of Kosovo normalization talks, said a 36-year-old Serb was shot in the back and doctors were working to remove a bullet that ended up in his lungs.

Serb media reported dozens of others were injured in addition to the man. But it couldn’t be independently verified.

Video footage showed police firing tear gas as Serbs hurled stones and other objects at officers. Police officers had to escort customs officers away from the scene to protect them. Serbs also blocked the main road with trucks, the same as last month during a tense situation to do with a spat over vehicle license plates.

A police car and at least two other cars with Kosovo license plates were burned, according to Kosovar media.

Serbian media reported an “extremely tense” situation in the Serb-populated northern part of Mitrovica after Kosovo police raided a pharmacy and some shops in an apparent action to stop the smuggling of goods.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti called on ethnic Serbs in Kosovo “not to fall prey of some media in Serbia protecting crime, corruption and smuggling and want to politicize and turn it (the police raid) into an ethnic issue.”

“Crime and criminals groupings will not be tolerated and will be fought. We shall fight and prevent smuggling,” Kurti wrote on his Facebook page.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic demanded “quick reaction” from the “international community,” including NATO and KFOR, calling the situation in Mitrovica is “more than dramatic.”

“This is the last moment that demands clear reaction to stop the mad policies conducted by Pristina,” Brnabic said in a statement. “This kind of conduct ... brings us to the edge of chaos.”

Petkovic accused Kurti of wanting to provoke “wider chaos.”

“I am asking KFOR and the international community to react and stop this madness by Albin Kurti,” said Petkovic. “If KFOR can’t react and protect the Serb people, there are those who can.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Brussels was “in contact with Belgrade and Pristina,” adding that “All open issues must be addressed through the EU-facilitated Dialogue.”

“The violent incidents in the north of Kosovo need to stop immediately. Unilateral and uncoordinated actions that endanger stability are unacceptable,” he tweeted.

Kosovo, a Serbian province before it declared independence in 2008, was in a war in 1998-1999 between Serbian troops and ethnic Albanian separatists fighting for independence until a NATO air campaign pushed Serb forces away.

Kosovo-Serbia ties remain tense despite a European Union-facilitated dialogue over the past decade to normalize them.

Last month, Kosovo’s government deployed special police forces to the border crossings to impose a new rule of removing Serb license plates from cars coming into the country, saying that a 10-year-old deal had expired. Kosovo's government said it was responding tit for tat to what Serbia had done for the past decade.

Protesting the new Kosovo rule, Kosovo Serbs blocked the border with trucks, and people could only cross on foot. Serbian military jets and helicopters have been flying close to the border with Kosovo in an apparent show of force.

The tensions came to an end only after bilateral negotiations were held under the auspices of a EU envoy and a U.S. senior official and NATO-led KFOR troops took control of the border areas.

——-

Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania. Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP World News, AP Business
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Logjam at UK's busiest port adds to Christmas delivery fears
A logjam at the U.K.‘s busiest commercial port has ratcheted up concerns that the country could see an array of shortages in the crucial Christmas trading period including of toys and food
6:17AM ( 1 minute ago )
Kosovo police clash with ethnic Serbs during smuggling raids
Police and local media in Kosovo are reporting that officers have clashed with ethnic Serbs in the north during an operation against the smuggling of goods
6:01AM ( 17 minutes ago )
The Latest: US to drop 19-month ban on nonessential travel
The Biden administration says the United States will reopen its land borders for nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic
5:58AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
British economic recovery falters during the summer
Britain's economic recovery has lost momentum during the summer despite the widespread lifting of coronavirus restrictions as supply chain issues took their toll
3:57AM ( 2 hours ago )
More migrants reach Germany via 'Belarus route'
German authorities say that the number of migrants arriving in the country via Poland and Belarus has gone up quickly during recent months
3:54AM ( 2 hours ago )
Holocaust forum focuses on social media role in antisemitism
A one-day conference will focus on the receding memory of the Holocaust as Sweden marks the 20th anniversary of a conference on remembering the genocide
3:47AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
China exports up 28% in September; surplus with US grows
China has reported its imports slowed in September while exports grew at a slightly faster pace
4:08AM ( 2 hours ago )
Capt. Kirk's William Shatner on cusp of blasting into space
Actor William Shatner is counting down to his wildest role yet: riding a rocket into space, courtesy of “Star Trek” fan Jeff Bezos
3:19AM ( 2 hours ago )
Theft-plagued Walgreens closing 5 more San Francisco stores
Walgreens says it will close five more stores in San Francisco next month because of organized retail theft
2:38AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: US to drop 19-month ban on nonessential travel
The Biden administration says the United States will reopen its land borders for nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic
5:58AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Lava from volcano on Spain's La Palma forces 800 to evacuate
Hundreds of people on La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands have awakened fearing for their homes and property after a new lava stream from an erupting volcano threatened to engulf another neighborhood on its way toward the Atlantic Ocean
5:58AM ( 20 minutes ago )
White House: LA port going 24/7 to ease shipping backlog
The White House says it has helped broker an agreement for the Port of Los Angeles to become a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation
5:51AM ( 27 minutes ago )
'It's not Satanism': Zimbabwe church leaders preach vaccines
The Apostolic church is one of Zimbabwe’s most skeptical groups when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines
5:17AM ( 1 hour ago )
British economy falters during summer as shortages build up
Britain's economic recovery has lost momentum during the summer despite the widespread lifting of coronavirus restrictions as supply chain issues took their toll
5:10AM ( 1 hour ago )