By Fatmir Aliu
One KFOR soldier was wounded in clashes with local Kosovo Serbs in an operation to remove a roadblock in northern Kosovo. Local media report that three Kosovo Serbs were injured in the incident.
A peacekeeper from NATO’s Kosovo Force, KFOR, was wounded in northern Kosovo during an operation to remove roadblocks manned by Kosovo Serbs.
The clashes erupted on the Mitrovica-Zvecan highway, close to Rudare.
A KFOR spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Uwe Nowitzki , told BIRN that the peacekeepers’ operation was meant to improve freedom of movement in the north.
“KFOR confirms that one soldier was wounded during the operation to remove the Rudare roadblock north of Mitrovica. The wounded soldier has been evacuated and is stable. KFOR condemns this violent act,” Nowitzki told Balkan Insight on Friday.
Meanwhile a Kosovo TV station, Most, reported that at least three Kosovo Serbs were injured in the same incident from “rubber bullets fired by KFOR soldiers.”
Nowitzki said that he could not confirm the claim.
“KFOR’s actions are always guided by the principle of using the least amount of force possible. However KFOR will respond in self-defence if that is necessary,” he told Balkan Insight.
Roads in the Serb-run north of Kosovo have been blocked for several months by Serbs protesting over the presence of Kosovo government police and customs on the contested border with Serbia.
Northern Serbs have erected dozens of barricades since July 25, blocking roads in reaction to a government police operation aimed at seizing border crossings in the north with Serbia.
The Kosovo Police spokesperson for northern Kosovo, Besim Hoti, said dozens of Kosovo Serbs gathered at the barricade in Rudare to stop KFOR’s removal operation and “gun shots were reported”. He could not confirm injuries.
Last November, over 40 NATO peacekeepers were injured in clashes with Serbs when soldiers tried to remove a roadblock on the road from Mitrovica to the border in Jarinje.
Northern Kosovo, which borders Serbia, has long been prone to bursts of violence. Its population, which is almost entirely comprised of Serbs, does not recognise Kosovo’s independence or the ethnic Albanian-led government in Pristina.
While officially a part of Kosovo, the region is under the de-facto control of so-called parallel institutions funded by Belgrade. These parallel institutions include town councils, health authorities, post offices and schools.