ZVECN, Kosovo: Serbia put its troops on the border with Kosovo on the highest state of alert Friday following clashes between ethnic Serbs and Kosovo police that left more than a dozen injured on both sides.
The Serbs in northern Kosovo, who represent a majority in that region, were trying to block the entrance of municipal buildings to prevent recently-elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering them.
Serb residents -- who rallied at the sound of an alarm commonly used in response to the presence of Kosovo police -- clashed with the officers in the Serb-majority town of Zvecan, AFP journalist saw.
They were eventually pushed back. In various videos posted online, gunshots and shock bombs could be heard. Ambulances arrived at the scene, where around 10 people suffered minor injuries “from shock bombs and tear gas, and also visible facial injuries”, Danica Radomirovic, deputy head of the local hospital, told local media.
Five police officers sustained slight injuries from “heavy objects and shock bombs” that were thrown in their direction, Kosovo police said. “Material damage was also caused to four official vehicles. One of them was set on fire... Gunshots were also heard nearby,” Kosovo police added.
Kosovo police earlier confirmed that the officers were escorting newly elected mayors into their workplaces. Serbian state-run broadcaster RTS reported that Kosovo police also used tear gas in the Zubin Potok and Leposavic municipalities.
Local ethnic Serbs have begun to erect roadblocks in Leposavic as a sign of protest at the events, RTS reported. Neighbouring Serbia placed its army on high alert and was ordered to move towards the Kosovo border, Serbian defence minister told local media.
The Serbian army has been put on a heightened state of alert over tensions with Kosovo multiple times in recent years. The last time was in December after Serbs erected barricades to protest at the arrest of an ex-policeman.