On October 13th, one Serb was shot and six police officers injured when police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that became hostile after raids on suspected smugglers in a volatile area of Kosovo populated by the Serb minority.
Kosovo police said officers met resistance in Mitrovica as they carried out an operation to seize smuggled goods in several towns.
A statement said police responded when protesters in Mitrovica used hand grenades and stun grenades against officers. It said six police officers were injured.
A Kosovo police statement said the raids 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.”
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti said:
“Crime and criminal groups will not be tolerated and will be fought. We will fight and stop the smuggling.”
Serbian state TV showed people running from tear gas and one vehicle set on fire. Firefighters’ vehicles were parked nearby. It said several people were injured.
The Kosovo Online news portal quoted Zlatan Elek, the head of a hospital in Mitrovica, as saying one person was seriously injured.
“The injury to the shoulder blade and ribs has been caused by a firearm … He is in intensive care and is in serious condition,” Elek was quoted as saying.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic left Belgrade to go to the central Serbian town of Raska to meet representatives of Kosovo Serbs later in the afternoon, his office said.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic urged NATO, which has 3,000 peacekeepers in Kosovo, to step in and stop the violence.
Brnabic demanded “quick reaction” from the “international community,” including NATO and KFOR because she said 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.”
The violence prompted an angry response from Serbia for the international community, including NATO-led peacekeeping mission KFOR, to restore order and prevent “wider chaos.”
The 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.
Petar Petkovic, a Serbian government official in charge of Kosovo talks, said a 36-year-old Serb was shot in the back and a bullet ended up in his lungs which doctors are trying to remove.
Petkovic said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is on his way to the Serbian town of Raska that is near Kosovo, where he will hold a meeting with Kosovo Serb representatives.
“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.
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