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news 28 Nov 11

Many Hurt as Kosovo Serbs Clash with NATO Troops

Dozens of people have been injured in a violent confrontation between NATO peacekeepers and protesters in Serb-run northern Kosovo, stoking tensions in the disputed territory.

Fatmir Aliu, Bojana Barlovac
Pristina, Belgrade

The violence broke out on Monday morning, when a crowd tried to prevent the troops from dismantling a barricade at Jagnjenica, near the town of Zubin Potok.

A health official in Zubin Potok told Beta news agency that between 30 and 50 people had been treated for injuries, none of which were believed to be life-threatening.

Two NATO soldiers were reportedly injured by small-arms fire from the protesters. A statement from KFOR, the NATO mission in Kosovo, said troops used water cannon, tear gas and pepper spray to control the crowd.

A KFOR statement said the NATO forces had taken control of the area around the barricade, and intended to establish a checkpoint for vehicles there.

Slavisa Ristic, the mayor of Zubin Potok, said he had been contacted by KFOR, and had urged the protesters to avoid violence. KFOR said it was working to calm the situation.

Serbs in northern Kosovo have blocked roads since the summer in protest at attempts by the ethnic Albanian administration in Pristina to take control of border crossings with Serbia. The dispute has led to several clashes, and has deepened the acrimony between Belgrade and Kosovo.

More than 21 peacekeepers were injured in Rudare last Wednesday, when Serb protesters blocked a KFOR attempt to remove one of 18 barricades in the area. The troops withdrew after the attack, leaving the roadblock to the demonstrators.

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