Kosovo Serbs, police injured in clashes

MITROVICA (AFP) – Several Kosovo police officers and ethnic Serb civilians were injured yesterday in clashes that erupted during raids targetting smugglers of Serbian-origin goods in Kosovo’s tense north, officials and police said.

The violence comes less than two weeks after Serbia and Kosovo reached an agreement to end a tense standoff at their border that marked the worst tensions between the two neighbours in a decade.

One ethnic Serb sustained serious gunshot injuries and several others suffered minor injuries, Zlatan Elek, head of a hospital in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, told AFP.

Police said six officers were injured in clashes and eight people were arrested.

The raids were conducted in four Kosovo regions, including in Mitrovica, within the “fight against goods smuggling”, police said.

Kosovo police officers guard a street in the northern Serb-dominated part of Mitrovica. PHOTO: AP

They were carried out at “various locations such as residential houses, business premises, warehouses”, a statement added.

The operation provoked anger among ethnic Serbs, hundreds of whom blocked roads in Mitrovica, a city that is ethnically split with Serbs in the north and Albanians in the south, and nearby Zvecan.

Police used tear gas and stunt grenades to disperse them, according to an AFP correspondent.

In the Serb-controlled north Mitrovica the protesters set on fire two vehicles and hurled stones at police.

One ethnic Serb from Zvecan sustained serious firearm injuries and is undergoing surgery, Elek said. Several other people were admitted to hospital with minor injuries, he added.

Tensions eased as the operation ended and police withdrew from both Zvecan and north Mitrovica, although a few hundred ethnic Serbs remained on the streets in Zvecan, an AFP reporter said. Last month, Serbia and Kosovo were at loggerheads after Kosovo banned cars with Serbian registration plates from entering its territory.