Dozens hurt as Serbs go on rampage in Kosovo

Hundreds of UN police and Nato troops came under fire from Serb protesters yesterday in the worst violence since Kosovo declared independence a month ago. The clashes followed attempts by a UN force backed by Nato troops from K-For to retake a court building seized by Serbs in the divided town of Mitrovica last week.

The violence, which left 70 civilians, more than 60 UN police officers and a dozen peacekeepers injured, broke out early in the morning after the raid had evicted more than 50 Serbs who had been demanding that the court be returned to Serbia's jurisdiction.

Angry Serb protesters rushed to the building, threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the security forces and set several of their vehicles on fire. Police and K-For soldiers fired teargas and stun grenades into the mob.

Witnesses said the area resembled a war zone. Nato said its troops came under automatic gunfire on the north side of the Ibar river which divides the town between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs. Nato helicopters hovered over the scene, prompting the Serbs to turn on an air-raid siren.

A Serb hospital director said three Serbs were seriously hurt, one shot through the head "by a sniper". A Nato spokesman said warning shots were fired into the air, not into the midst of rioters. In the Kosovo capital of Pristina, a later Nato statement condemned "the lethal violence, including direct fire by the mob" in Mitrovica.

Northern Mitrovica is the home of the largest Serb community in Kosovo. Serbs, backed by Belgrade, fiercely oppose the independence of the breakaway province, run by the UN since 1999. Some 120,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo.

Their effort to take over the UN court building was widely seen as part of Belgrade's plan to create parallel institutions in the enclaves populated by Serbs. Since 17 February, Belgrade has pushed for control over a railway in the north, and supported Serbs who withdrew from the multi-ethnic Kosovo police force.

There have been persistent reports in Belgrade of a secret "action plan" devised by the nationalist government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

He condemned the use of force against Serbs who were opposing the setting-up of a "false state" and he accused Nato of "implementing a policy of force against Serbia".

In Belgrade, Serbia's President Boris Tadic appealed yesterday to the UN and Nato not to use "excessive force" and called on Serbs to refrain from provocations. Mr Tadic said the clashes coincided with the fourth anniversary of ethnic Albanian attacks on Kosovo Serbs. Nineteen people were killed and many Serb houses and churches in Kosovo were destroyed during the weeks of violence in 2004.

The EU called for restraint but Russia, which backs Belgrade on the Kosovo issue, called for a return to international talks on the status of Kosovo.

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said violence was a result of the territory's unilateral declaration of independence.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor