U.N. police ordered to leave north Kosovo town

Serbs attacked a U.N. convoy carrying Serb detainees from a raid in Kosovo on Monday, enabling several detainees to escape, a Reuters witness said.

U.N. police ordered to leave north Kosovo town

Hundreds of Serbs in north Kosovo clashed with U.N. police and NATO peacekeepers on Monday in the worst violence in the territory since the Albanian majority declared independence last month.

Riots erupted in the town of Mitrovica after several hundred U.N. special police backed by French NATO peacekeepers stormed a U.N. court in the town and evicted dozens of Serbs who had seized the building on Friday.

The Serb rioters attacked three U.N. vehicles, breaking doors and freeing around 10 detainees from the raid, witnesses said. Several U.N. vehicles holding detainees were still in the court compound.

Police and NATO troops fired tear gas to disperse the crowds lobbing stones and firecrackers. Smoke was seen billowing from at least two transport vehicles of the 16,000-strong NATO peace force in Kosovo, KFOR.

"More than 100 people have been treated for the effects of tear gas," Mitrovica hospital director Milan Ivanovic said.

Eight U.N. police officers and three NATO soldiers were injured, a U.N. police source said.

Serb protesters had seized the court on Friday to assert control over policing and justice in Serb areas of Kosovo following the ethnic Albanian majority's declaration of independence on Feb 17.

Around 120,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo, a bitter minority among two million ethnic Albanians.

The Kosovo Serbs, almost half of whom live in the north, reject Kosovo's Western-backed declaration of independence. Supported by Russia, Belgrade has vowed to never accept the secession and to extend its authority over Serb areas, particularly the north.

More than 500 mainly Ukrainian U.N. police were involved in the dawn raid, backed by hundreds of French troops in armoured vehicles. The detainees were handcuffed and placed in U.N. vans, and police removed a Serbian flag from the court.

Some analysts fear Serbia is now trying to partition the territory.

Also, U.N. police were ordered to pull out of northern Kosovo on Monday as hundreds of Serbs opposed to Kosovo's independence rioted in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica.

"An order has been given for UNMIK police to withdraw from the north because of ongoing violent riots," a spokesman told Reuters in the capital Pristina.

There are hundreds of U.N. police in Serb-dominated north Kosovo, backed by NATO peacekeepers.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Mart 2008, 16:22