By Fatmir Aliu
Serbs in volatile North Kosovo attacked NATO peacekeepers in KFOR, injuring 21, after they moved to dismantle a Serb barricade.
It is not clear how many Kosovo Serbs were injured, but local media reported that many had been admitted in the hospital with injuries.
A KFOR spokesperson, Frank Martin, told Balkan Insight that violence erupted shortly after midnight on Wednesday when angry Serbs massed to stop peacekeepers from removing a roadblock on the road from Mitrovica to the Serbian border at Jarinje.
KFOR began the operation shortly after 11pm, seizing the barricade, but at midnight more Serb protesters gathered, supported by trucks.
“The demonstrators used force, including the throwing of stones, and pushed back KFOR troops by attacking them with trucks loaded with gravel.
“KFOR troops were forced to fire warning shots into the air in addition to which KFOR also used teargas and batons for self-protection against the protesters”, Martin told Balkan Insight.
To prevent further escalation of the dispute, KFOR halted the military operation and abandoned the barricade to the protesters.
The KFOR spokesperson said that this decision was taken “not to risk serious casualties on both sides, therefore KFOR took the responsible decision to stop the operation.
“KFOR can confirm that 21 soldiers suffered injuries,” he added.
Serbs have been manning barricades in North Kosovo for months, protesting against the deployment of Kosovo government officials on border crossings with Serbia.