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Exchanges of fire between Serbs and Kosovo police took place on Saturday, amid renewed tensions in northern Kosovo. In response, Serbia will ask NATO for permission to deploy security forces in the country.
An exchange of fire pitted Kosovo Serbs against the national police on Saturday (December 10th) after hundreds of them erected barricades on a road in the north of the country, blocking traffic at two important crossing points in the border with Serbia.
Trucks, ambulances and agricultural machinery had been set up to block traffic amid tensions marked in recent days by explosions, shootings and an attack targeting a police patrol. A Kosovar Albanian policeman was injured in this attack.
According to local media, protesters from Kosovo’s Serb minority are outraged by the arrest of a former policeman of Serb ethnicity suspected of involvement in attacks on Kosovo police. Protesters told AFP that they wanted to prevent “the transfer to Pristina” of the arrested former policeman.
Kosovar Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said the arrested ex-policeman was one of two suspects apprehended after the attacks on police patrols over the past two days.
These tensions erupted after the decision by the Kosovo authorities to organize local elections on 18 December in municipalities with a Serb majority, which the main Serbian political parties have announced that they want to boycott.
Shortly after the barricades were erected, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani announced that she had decided to postpone local elections to April 23.
The attack in which the policeman was injured on Thursday took place after the deployment in northern Kosovo of Kosovar Albanian policemen. According to the government, this deployment was decided after the collective resignation of Serbs working in public institutions, including the police. Serbian members of the security forces and civil servants had resigned in protest against the decision of the Kosovo authorities to replace the number plates issued by Belgrade with those issued by Pristina.
Serb demonstrators had blocked traffic in September at the two main border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia, to express their anger over the license plates.
The Serb minority in Kosovo, which totals around 120,000 members, refuses its loyalty to Pristina with the encouragement of Belgrade, which does not recognize the independence of Kosovo proclaimed in 2008.
Use of NATO
Faced with this renewed tension, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that his country was going to ask NATO for authorization to deploy security forces in Kosovo.
The leader specified during a press conference that he would send a letter to this effect to the commander of the Kosovo Force (KFOR), led by NATO under a UN mandate, under the resolution of the Security Council that ended the Kosovo war (1998-1999).
“We are going to ask the KFOR commander to deploy military and police personnel from the Republic of Serbia to the territory of Kosovo and Metohija (Metohija),” he said, while adding that it would not be done “ no illusions” about the answer.
This missive will be formalized by the Serbian government on Monday or Tuesday, he said.
With Reuters and AFP