ISSN 2330-717X

North Kosovo Serbs Vow To Defend Barricades

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By Bojana Barlovac and Fatmir Aliu

Local Serb leaders in northern Kosovo have pledged to defend roadblocks if KFOR peacekeepers try to dismantle them.

Serbs in the predominantly Serb-populated northern Kosovo area have vowed to defy a KFOR deadline to remove roadblocks by Tuesday.

“We will defend our barricades with our bodies if necessary,” Srdjan Djurovic, deputy mayor of Zubin Potok, told Balkan Insight.

A joint session of councillors of the four Serb-run municipalities in the north, scheduled for Wednesday, is supposed to decide on future moves and find solutions.

Though determined to carry on, some local Serbs say they are disappointed with the lack of support they are receiving from Belgrade.

Djurovic said: “Belgrade is ignoring us although we are fighting here for our country [Serbia] and not for our own lives”.

On Monday locals protested in the towns of Zupce, Leposavic and Kolasin, pledging to remain on the streets until the Albanian-led Kosovo government withdrew its customs officials from two border crossings with Serbia.

While the protests and barricades enjoy overwhelming support from the majority Serb community in the north, minorities there accuse the international community of being soft towards Serb hardliners.

A handful of Albanians clings on to the north of the de-facto dividing line on the Ibar River, in the Bosnjacka mahala [Bosniak neighbourhood] of Mitrovica.

Adem Mripa, 64, representative of the neighbourhood, said he and his fellow Albanians in the north of Kosovo were afraid of the tense situation, and worried by the inactivity of KFOR.

“The international community and KFOR are too soft with the radicals. We don’t sleep at night,” he told Balkan Insight.

Bosnjacka mahala is home to a tiny enclave of 20 Albanian families in the northern, Serb-run part of Mitrovica, and is often subject to intimidation.

“My house was attacked last month when someone threw a Molotov cocktail, and my neighbour’s was attacked too. As a result I stay alone overnight at the house, and my family live elsewhere,” Mripa said.

For the past two-and-a-half months there has been ongoing tension, coupled with occasional outbursts of violence, in northern Kosovo, following the deployment of the Kosovo government customs officers.

Local Serbs have built some 16 barricades, blocking the main access roads to the two border crossings at Jarinje and Brnjak.

The Kosovo government says it has a right to deploy officials on the border with Serbia, and that the move is necessary to cut down on the endemic smuggling going on between Kosovo and Serbia.

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Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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