Northern Kosovo sees ethnic Serbs clash with police

Police had to use tear gas to disperse Serbs who had gathered on Friday (May 26) in front of municipal buildings in northern Kosovo. The police had to take action afteR helping ethnic Albanian mayors assume their posts following controversial elections. The ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo had boycotted the local elections in April. This allowed ethnic Albanians to take control of the local councils in spite of a very low voter turnout of 3.5 per cent.

Serb residents clashed with the police in the Serb-majority town of Zvecan. The crowd had rallied at the sound of an alarm which is commonly used in response to the presence of Kosovo police. The residents were eventually pushed back.

Many videos of the incident had been posted online. Gunshots and shock bombs could be heard in those.

Around 10 people suffered minor injuries. Ambulances arrived at the scene. Those injured were affected by “shock bombs and tear gas” and they also had “visible facial injuries” according to Danica Radomirovic, deputy head of the local hospital. She was quoted by the local media.

Watch | Thousands protest against violence in Serbia for third time in a month

Five police officers sustained slight injuries from “heavy objects and shock bombs” that were thrown in their direction, Kosovo police said.

“Material damage was also caused to four official vehicles. One of them was set on fire… Gunshots were also heard nearby,” Kosovo police added.

AFP said that Kosovo police confirmed they were escorting newly elected mayors into their workplaces. 

Tensions persist

RTS, a Serbian state-run broadcaster, reported that the police used tear gas in Zubin Potok and Leposavic municipalities.

Local ethnic Serbs have begun to erect roadblocks in Leposavic as a sign of protest at the events, RTS reported.

Neighbouring Serbia placed its army on high alert and was ordered to move towards the Kosovo border, Serbian defence minister told local media. 

There are frequent bouts of unrest in Kosovo’s northern districts, home to many ethnic Serbs, who have remained loyal to Belgrade and never accepted Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from its neighbour in 2008.

It is estimated that about 120,000 Serbs live in Kosovo. The population is mainly present in four northern districts.

Belgrade backed the local election boycott in April. It is pushing for an “association of Serb municipalities” — a form of autonomy for the Serb minority in Kosovo, where the majority of the 1.8 million inhabitants are ethnic Albanian.

(With inputs from agencies)

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