Military law imposed on divided Kosovo town after Serb rioting

Nato has put the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica under de facto military law after rioting by Serbs hostile to the newly independent state left one UN policeman dead and forced the withdrawal of UN staff.

The violence, which erupted on Monday at the UN courthouse in the divided town, was the worst since Kosovo's Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia last month. Nato officials said that protesters had "crossed a red line", using Molotov cocktails and grenades. A 25-year-old Ukrainian policeman died after being caught in by a grenade blast, becoming the first UN policeman to die in Kosovo since the UN took control in 1999.

In Mitrovica, the main bridge over the river that separates the town's Serb north from the Albanian south, was closed. French, Belgian and Spanish peacekeepers from the Nato-led force in armoured personnel carriers secured potential flashpoints and a column of US troops arrived to provide back-up. Meanwhile, all Kosovo Serb police officers were ordered to suspend normal duties.

Larry Rossin, the second-in-command of the UN mission in Kosovo, accused Serbia's authorities of being behind the violence. "It is clear to us that the violence ... was orchestrated," he said. "We've never had what we could consider a clear and unambiguous denunciation of this kind of violence from the ministers or indeed any other Belgrade government official that I can think of."

The unrest will have strengthened the hand of ultranationalists in Serbia, which vehemently rejected Kosovo's secession, ahead of parliamentary elections on 19 May. Some 120,000 Serbs live in the north and scattered in enclaves in the south of Kosovo. Policemen, doctors and teachers in the area still follow orders and take salaries from the Serbian government.

There have been reports, carried in Zeri, Kosovo's biggest-selling daily, that Serbia has offered to formally govern ethnic Serb areas in Kosovo. The proposal, believed to have been made at the weekend by Serbia's Minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, would in effective partition Europe's newest country and is said to have been rejected by the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Mr Rossin said that he had met Mr Samardzic and was given a document meant to be "a framework for a comprehensive relationship between Serbia and UNMIK", but would not comment on its contents.

The International Crisis Group, the Brussels-based think-tank, said in a report that the UN, Nato and the EU had been caught unprepared by Serb tactics and needed to co-ordinate better. "Serbia and Russia need to receive some very clear messages that partition of Kosovo is unacceptable", said Sabine Freizer, director of its Europe programme.

Monday's rioting was triggered by a UN police operation to remove Serbian protesters from a UN courthouse that they had been occupying for almost four days. In addition to the death of the policeman, another 42 officers and 22 peacekeepers were injured.

Yesterday, charred vehicles and burnt-out rubbish littered streets close to the courthouse. French peacekeepers fired warning shots into the air to disperse a group of stone-throwing protesters, but no one was hurt.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
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: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us