Police, demonstrators injured during riot in southern KM

During Sunday's protests and clashes in the southern part of Kosovska Mitrovica near the main bridge, 13 policemen and six demonstrators were injured.

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug

Two journalists were also hurt, while four official vehicles were torched, and so far five persons have been arrested, Albanian language media from Priština are reporting.

Ethnic Albanians organized the protest in the southern part of the divided town over what Serbs in the northern part refer to as Peace Park built in place of a barricade removed from the bridge last week.

Spokesman for the Kosovo police Avni Zahiti confirmed that five persons were arrested, and said that two police vehicles, along with one belonging to EULEX and KFOR each were burned down by rioters.

Local Serbs gathered to watch the developments across the bridge during Sunday afternoon, but left by the evening.

Previously, ethnic Albanians gathered around 15:00 CET near the bridge, shouting "UCK" in reference to the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, and carrying Albanian and American flags, to a while later clash with a cordon of police securing the protest.

The protesters thew stones at the Kosovo police members and KFOR troops who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. Later on, EULEX police also used tear gas.

In Priština, the Kosovo government urged citizens to exercise restraint, with the assurance that "the new barricade" on the Ibar would be quickly removed.

A statement called on the EU to increase engagement in the implementation of the Brussels agreement so that the barrier to free movement is removed as soon as possible, and added:

"We also guarantee that the government will, in case of inefficiency in this regard, take the necessary measures in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the state of Kosovo."

The mayor of the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, Goran Rakić, joined the Serbs gathered on the northern side of the bridge on Sunday, and spoke to reporters before the rioting began to say that he supported any form of expression of the free will of the people, adding that he "did not want to believe that there was something that does not have connotations of peace behind the 'Either us or you' slogan" - under which the protest was held.

Rakić also ​​said that Peace Park was a move towards normalizing the situation in Kosovska Mitrovica, and called on authorities in Priština to "mitigate the rhetoric that led to this demonstration."

"I expected we would build a bigger and more beautiful park in which Serbian and Albanian children would both play," Rakić ​​said, adding that peace must be a priority and that there must no longer be ethnic conflicts.

But Mayor of South Mitrovica Agim Bahtiri said on Saturday that "patience had ran out" and that "the new barricade on the bridge in the form of a park now has to be removed," announcing Sunday's protest.

Director of the Serbian Government Office of Kosovo Marko Đurić condemned "the destructive demonstrations" in the southern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, and said they were directed against peace, "co-existence" and the normalization of relations between Serbian and Albanian people.

Đurić called for calming of tensions and stressed that the events deepened anxiety among the Serbs and "spoke of the necessity of dialogue."

"It is better to negotiate a thousand days that to go to war for just one," he was quoted as saying, and adding that Serbia was "holding an outstretched hand to work on building trust and creating a stable and peaceful future for all in Kosovo."


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