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news 29 Jun 12

Stoning of Serb Buses in Kosovo Roundly Condemned

Attack on convoy of Serb buses that left 16 children injured while returning home from a commemoration ceremony has been condemned by the UN, NATO, Serbia and Kosovo itself.

Fatmir Aliu, Bojana Barlovac BIRN Pristina, Belgrade

Kosovo and Serbian leaders along with the UN and NATO have condemned an attack on buses carrying Serbs home from Battle of Kosovo commemorations, describing it as totally unacceptable.

“We strongly condemn the attack using Molotov cocktails on five buses carrying Serbs… the attack was an attempt to challenge our stability,” Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga said on Friday, calling for a thorough investigation.

The Serbs had been returning from the Gazimestan Monument, erected to commemorate the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, a key date in Serbian history when Medieval Serbia confronted the might of the Ottoman Empire.

According to police, the buses were travelling back from Gazimestan towards the mainly Serbian municipality of Gracanica when they were attacked in the capital, Pristina, at the junction close to the Hotel Victory, in Pristina, at around 2pm.

Most of the injured youngsters were transported to nearby Serb-run clinics in Laplje Selo and Gracanica.

Two patients needed to spend more time in hospital to recover from the injuries they received from stones thrown at the buses. Local TV aired pictures of stones lying inside buses with broken windows and blood stains on the floor.

Serbia's authorities also strongly condemned the incident and called for an investigation.

President Tomislav Nikolic said on Friday that the attacks on Serb civilians in Kosovo were unacceptable and represented an open provocation at a time when tensions in Kosovo should be reduced, ahead of the planned resumption of Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

He also said that responsibility for the events lay with the authorities in Pristina, and that such violations of human rights were not helping stability in the region.

Ivica Dacic, Serbian's incoming Prime Minister, also condemned the attacks on the Serbs, saying that international forces in Kosovo should have prevented them.

"If the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija cannot mark St Vitus Day - a day of great Serbian suffering - the question is how one can ensure a peaceful life for Serbs in Kosovo," he asked.

"In Kosovo there are no our [Serbian] security forces, but the new Serbian government, once it is formed, will insist on this," Dacic added.

Goran Bogdanovic, the outgoing Serbian Minister for Kosovo, also urged an investigation into the incident in Pristina.

"Despite earlier announcements that the Kosovo police will protect Serbs and provide them with escorts when visiting Gazimestan and Gracanica, a positive message has not been sent to Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohija," Bogdanovic said.

The NATO and UN missions to Kosovo also criticised the incident, saying violent acts such as these do not correspond with pledges about freedom of movement for all.

“This shameful action is contrary to the integrity of the maintenance of a safe and secure environment for all people in Kosovo,” NATO’s Kosovo force, KFOR, said.

The peacekeepers and UN Mission to Kosovo, UNMIK, called upon the authorities to respond properly to the attack.

The UN Special Representative to Kosovo, Farid Zarif, urged the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and called on all parties” to refrain from any action which could exacerbate the situation”.

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