Monday, October 3, 2011

North Kosovo Calm, Serbs Strengthen Barricades

The situation in northern Kosovo remains calm although local Serbs are continuing to strengthen barricades blocking major roads in the region.

Bojana Barlovac

Mitrovica barricades

For the 18th night in a row, Serbs have kept guard of the barricades on all main roads in the Serb-populated region of northern Kosovo.

However, the everyday monotony on the barricades got broken on Sunday night after Serbia’s women’s volleyball national team won for the first time the European Championships.

Local Serbs in the north celebrated the victory by raising Serbian flags and setting off fireworks.

In the meantime, the barricade on the bridge which divides the town of Mitrovica has been additionally strengthened.

After KFOR soldiers dismantled a barricade on the Jarinje border crossing last week, local Serbs have pledged to build two instead of one for each destroyed barricade. There are 18 barricades at the moment.

The locals say all roads will remain blocked until the Albanian-led Kosovo government withdraws its recently installed customs officers from the two main border points with Serbia at Brnjak and Jarinje.

The scheduled deployment of Kosovo customs officers along with EULEX police followed the conclusion of an EU-mediated “customs agreement” between Belgrade and Pristina in Brussels on September 2.

Heads of the Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo demanded at a joint press conference on Sunday for an independent commission under the auspices of the UN to be found to investigate the events of last Tuesday.

On Tuesday, at around noon at the Jarinje border-crossing, hundreds of Kosovo Serb protesters tried to breach a KFOR security perimeter.

A NATO peacekeeper spokesman said that NATO had been forced to adequately respond, when the violence and indiscriminate acts occurred, “shots were fired in the direction of KFOR personnel as well as explosive devices thrown at KFOR soldiers."

As a result at least 16 people were injured.

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