KOSOVSKA MITROVICA: Kosovo police fired tear gas yesterday to disperse stone-throwing protesters who set alight police cars demanding the removal of a barricade on a bridge linking ethnic Albanians and Serbs in the divided town of Mitrovica.
Six policemen and two photographers were slightly injured as about 1,000 ethnic Albanian protesters pelted the police cordon with stones, police said. At least 10 protesters were also slightly injured while several people were detained for questioning.
Anti-riot police, backed by Nato-led KFOR peacekeepers, responded with tear gas and sealed off the bridge to prevent demonstrators crossing to the northern, Serb half of the town.
The protesters later set on fire two Kosovo police cars and two vehicles belonging to the European Union rule of law mission, EULEX. They were angry over a three-year-old barricade put up by ethnic Serbs on the bridge over the river Ibar that separates the two communities.
Until last week, it was an unsightly mess of earth and concrete blocks — a largely symbolic barrier expressing the angry refusal of ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo to merge with the rest of the country after it declared independence in 2008.
The pile was removed on Wednesday only to be replaced a few hours later by a line of plant pots with small fir trees, and the bridge was covered with a layer of soil which the local Serb mayor said would be used to create a “peace park”. AFP