Kosovo Serbs set up roadblocks in volatile north

Kosovo Serbs set up roadblocks in volatile north
This escalation comes amid rising tensions between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians. Kosovo and Serbia traded blame for the volatile situation.
2 min read
10 December, 2022
Kosovo Police sent law reinforcement patrols standing at the Bosniaks' Neighborhood, which divides the northern areas dominated by the ethnic Serb minority.Photo by Vudi Xhymshiti/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Hundreds of ethnic Serbs erected barricades on a road in northern Kosovo on Saturday, blocking the traffic over the two major border crossings towards Serbia, police said.

Trucks, ambulance cars and agricultural machines were used as roadblocks, fuelling recent tensions which included explosions, shootings and an armed attack on a police patrol which saw one ethnic Albanian police officer wounded.

Demonstrators told AFP they were outraged over the arrest of a former ethnic Serb policeman, who is suspected of being involved in recent attacks on Kosovo police officers.

The protest was announced by setting off emergency sirens in several cities in Serb-majority northern Kosovo, according to an AFP journalist.

Local media reported that the protesters wanted to prevent the arrested officer from being transferred to the capital, Pristina.

Kosovo's Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said the ex-policeman was one of two suspects arrested over attacks on police officers in the past couple of days.

The recent bout of tensions flared up after Kosovo scheduled local elections in the Serb-majority municipalities for December 18 which the main Serb political party said it would boycott.

Explosions and shooting were heard on Tuesday as election authorities visited two municipalities in north Kosovo in order to prepare the vote, but no injuries were reported.

Shortly after the roadblocks were erected, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani announced in a press release that the elections would be postponed until April 23.

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An officer was wounded in north Kosovo on Thursday after ethnic Albanian police were deployed to the volatile region.

Kosovo's government said the police -- mainly ethnic Albanians -- were deployed after local Serbs collectively resigned from official posts in protest over Kosovo's decision to replace Belgrade-issued car licence plates with ones from Pristina.

Ethnic Serbs also staged daily protests and blocked the traffic at Kosovo's two northern border crossings with Serbia last September, protesting the licence plate issue.

Kosovo and Serbia traded blame for the latest round of incidents.

The underlying source of tension is Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, which Serbia does not recognise and encourages the Serb minority to remain loyal to Belgrade.

Serbs make up around 120,000 of Kosovo's roughly 1.8 million-strong population, which is overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian.