Tear gas, stun grenades against protesting Serbs

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- KFOR and EULEX members have used tear gas and stun grenades against protesting Serbs in the Brđani settlement of northern Kosovska Mitrovica.

International forces reacted to prevent the protesters from approaching the so-called yellow line of separation with ethnic Albanians.

Shots were also heard today from firearms. No casualties were reported, and it remains unclear who used the weapons.

The Serbs remind that the reconstruction of Albanian houses is possible only with an agreement reached by both sides – a provision of a deal reached in 2000.

Strong KFOR and EULEX forces are on the Albanian side, while Kosovo police, KPS, members are close to the separation line. KFOR soldiers were also seen in the nearby hills.

The local Serbs first gathered at the beginning of April after announcements that Albanians would start renewing their homes in Brđani.

Their representatives met with international officials, but the meetings produced no results.

Last October, several Serbs were injured in protests in Brđani sparked by the Albanian attempts to rebuild their houses.

The flashpoint town of Kosovska Mitrovica is ethnically divided by the Ibar River.

No Serbs live in the southern, Albanian part since the violence against them in 2004, while there are Albanian neighborhoods in the northern, Serb-dominated part.

Rubber bullets injure K. Serb man

A young Serb man was wounded today in northern Kosovska Mitrovica from rubber bullets, Beta reports.

The incident happened in the Brdo neighborhood of the divided northern Kosovo town. The news agency does not specify who fired the shots.

The injured Serb was released from hospital after he received treatment, while a number of others complained about health problems caused by tear gas.

Brdo's Serb representative Siniša Lazić told reporters that the international community in the province has "made it its goal to drive Serbs out of that settlement and out of northern Kosovo with the use of force".

"We will be persistent in our efforts to solve the problem peacefully, but it looks as if international peacekeepers and Albanians do not want that," he said.

Lazić also announced that locals would continue with protests until an agreement is reached, and ethnic Albanians desist from renewing five houses in that part of the settlement.