KFOR blocks Kosovo police unit in tense neighborhood

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Northern Kosovo Serbs who gathered in Kosovska Mitrovica’s multi-ethnic neighborhood of Brđani earlier on Thursday left the streets in the afternoon.

The situation became tense again in Brđani on Thursday. Sirens went off and shots were fired, according to unofficial information.

Sirens went off and shots were fired, according to unofficial information.

Several hundred Serbs gathered this morning in Brđani to protest against the construction of houses for ethnic Albanians who never previously lived in this part of the city.

Serbian public broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) has learned that the Kosovo police special units (ROSU) headed toward the neighborhood but were stopped by EULEX and KFOR, who blocked roads.

According to the RTS, ROSU members are now blocked on a road leading to Brđani near the village of Suvi Do.

A source told RTS that sirens sounded alert a little after noon in the northern part of the city. Large groups of Serbs from Kosovska Mitrovica are headed toward Brđani.

However, Priština-based Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) reports that the Serbs "threw stones at workers who were hired to build the Albanian houses and that one of them was injured". RTK says that a group of Albanians gathered in the neighborhood in the meantime and that the situation was tense but peaceful.

There was an explosion in Brđani on Wednesday but there were no casualties and no additional information about the incident has been released.

Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci commented on the construction of the houses for Albanians in the neighborhood on Thursday and told the UN mission, UNMIK, that it "had no right to interfere and decide where the Albanians would build their houses".

“The Kosovo government strongly supports construction of houses on their properties in the north, regardless of their ethnicity. They will constantly be with them in order to prevent the obstruction of the construction,” Thaci noted.

“Serbs do not want conflicts”

Kosovska Mitrovica Mayor Krstimir Pantić and Kosovska Mitrovica District Head Radenko Nedeljković have requested from EULEX representatives that Albanians stop the construction of houses in Brđani until they receive necessary permits from the local authorities.

After a meeting with a EULEX representative, Pantić said that Serbs would not do anything that would raise tensions and cause conflicts with Albanians or representatives of the international forces.

“However, we cannot guarantee that Albanians will not resort to violence and provocations,” he noted.

Pantić added that presence of the international forces in this part of the territory had therefore been requested. He added that the international forces had been requested to guarantee that Albanians would not do anything that would raise tensions, cause conflicts and jeopardize peace and stability.

“We want to talk to representatives of KFOR and EULEX as well as with Albanians who used to live in the neighborhood of Brđani and want to return to their homes but we cannot allow illegal construction and settling of those who have never lived here to change the population’s ethnic structure,” he explained.

The EULEX representative promised to communicate the requests to the mission chief and said that he would then inform the northern Kosovo Serbs about their decision.

Pantić says that the citizens will stay out in the streets until Kosovo police units and ROSU units withdraw.