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news 21 Nov 12

Explosion Fuels Tension in Northern Kosovo

A bomb exploded at an Albanian home in Serb-run northern Kosovo on Wednesday, the latest in a series of violent incidents in the unstable region this week.

Fatmir Aliu BIRN Pristina

Tensions have mounted in the north of Kosovo, where police recorded several incidents this week, including a bomb explosion, car burnings and exchanges of fire. No one was seriously injured.

A house belonging to a Kosovo Albanian was attacked on Wednesday morning, police said adding that they suspected that the bomb attack was designed to scare locals.

The explosion detonated at 9.30am in Kroi i Vitakut, Brdjani in Serbian, near Mitrovica. "No one was hurt but there was material damage,” Besim Hoti, the police regional spokesperson, told BIRN on Wednesday.

Kroi i Vitakut/Brdjani has been the scene of several confrontations between Serbs and Albanians since the reconstruction of homes for Albanian returnees started in April 2009.

The EU rule of law mission, EULEX, and NATO forces in Kosovo have intervened on a number occasions to separate the two sides.

Serbs have regularly protested against the reconstruction of Albanian homes in the area of the north of Mitrovica, which is predominately inhabited by Serbs.

Mitrovica’s Albanian Mayor, Avni Kastrati, has called for an extraordinary meeting of the local Security Council with the Albanian returnees.

“We have an obligation to help people return to their property,” he said, accusing Serbian-run "parallel structures" in the north of inciting violence.

“Serbian parallel structures are trying to stop this process, and are using all their means to make it happen,” Kastrati said.

No Kosovo Serb representatives in the north commented on the incident.

On Tuesday, dozens of Serbs protested in Zvecan over the detention of a Kosovo Serb, Slavoljub Jovic-Pagi, arrested last week in Mitrovica.

Also on Tuesday, a number of Albanians and Serbs became engaged in a fist fight in Kroi i Vitakut that later escalated into rock-throwing and a shooting spree.

Police said that one person was injured in the incident, a Kosovo Albanian worker at the construction site.

The previous day, police reported three vehicles had been damaged by a hand grenade that set them on fire in the municipality of Zvecan. All of the vehicles belonged to Kosovo Serbs.

The north of Kosovo has long been a scene of ethnic violence between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians, a small minority in the area.

International security forces face serious problems working in the north of Kosovo, as their freedom of movement has been limitd by the erection of dozens of barricades on roads since July 2011.

In July, the Kosovo government opened an office in northern Kosovo in an attempt to assert greater control over the area and offer services to people wishing to obtain Kosovo ID papers and passports.

But local Serbs have objected to its opening, continuing to reject any links with the mainly ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina.

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