Nato condemns ‘totally unacceptable’ clashes with Serbs in Kosovo

Some 25 Nato peacekeepers are injured as Serbs tried to prevent ethnic-Albanian mayors from reaching their offices

Nato has condemned “totally unacceptable” attacks by demonstrators in Kosovo that left some 25 of its peacekeepers injured.

Violence escalated in northern Kosovo on Monday, where local Serb protesters clashed with police and later with Nato-led peacekeepers, leaving dozens of injured.

The force, known as KFOR, said some of its Hungarian and Italian soldiers who were “countering the most active fringes of the crowd” became “the subject of unprovoked attacks and sustained trauma wounds with fractures and burns due to the explosion of incendiary devices.”

“Such attacks are totally unacceptable,” Nato said in the statement. “KFOR will take all necessary actions to fulfill its UN mandate.”


The international force known as KFOR has been deployed in Kosovo since the 1998-99 war between Serbs and ethnic Albanians over Kosovo.

The violence erupted as Serb protesters tried to block newly elected ethnic-Albanian mayors from reaching their offices.

More than 50 local Serbs were injured in the flare up, including one in critical condition from gunshot wounds, Serb president Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Belgrade.

It was the worst violence in years in the tense northern area adjacent to Serbia where Mr Vucic reiterated his pledge to protect the Serb minority that accounts for less than 7 per cent of Kosovo’s 1.8 million people.

“We will not tolerate the pogrom of Serbs,” he said, urging the ethnic kin in Kosovo to avoid confrontation with the multinational, Nato-led peacekeeping troops. “I beg Serbs in Kosovo not to engage in confrontation with Nato.”

Serbia’s authorities, including the army, remain in contact with the military alliance to defuse tension and prevent further violence, he said.

Earlier in the day, Kosovo’s mostly ethnic-Albanian police forces used pepper spray in response to tear gas hurled by hundreds of ethnic-Serb demonstrators who tried to block access of officials to municipal buildings in Serb-dominated towns.

The flare-up imperils a European Union-brokered, US-supported plan for the Balkan neighbours to normalise relations. KFOR urged the governments of Serbia and Kosovo to engage in the dialogue to reduce tensions.

Following Friday’s clashes, the US and top European allies condemned Kosovo’s government for what they said were actions that provoked the unrest.

The clashes erupted when the mayors tried to access their offices against the recommendation of US and EU mediators. The officials had been elected in a local ballot in April that Serbs boycotted and called invalid.

Mr Vucic said four local prominent Serbs were arrested in Kosovo and that his country was in talks with KFOR negotiating their release.

Serbia’s army remained on high alert, a status ordered by Mr Vucic on Friday. He took similar steps last year when recurring tensions in Kosovo near the border nearly lapsed into fighting. – Bloomberg