Friday, October 21, 2011

Tear gas at the barricades: NATO sprays Serb protests

NATO peacekeepers have used tear gas against Serb protesters in northern Kosovo. They dispersed the crowd in order to start dismantling barricades erected in a protest against deployment of customs checkpoints on the border.

The tension has already spilled into violence in Kosovo, reports RT’s Maria Finoshina. One Serb was gunned down and two wounded near the city of Pec in the west of the province. The shooting was done by their Albanian neighbor, she says.

Meanwhile some 300 Serbs tried to prevent the Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) from tearing down the barricades in Kosovo’s north, but the soldiers were armed with anti-riot equipment to cordon off the barricaded area.

KFOR used loudspeakers to try to convince the Serb to go home, but it failed to help. There was a lot of shouting from both parties, but otherwise the conflict was not violent.

NATO soldiers fired tear gas grenades at the protesters and managed to disperse them, says AFP. RT's Maria Finoshina says it was more likely pepper spray than tear has. She adds KFOR is erecting a barbed wire fence to isolate Serbs from the barricade and threatens to use force against them.

At least 100 armed transport vehicles are involved in the operation, which is aimed at removing the 16 barricades on the border. KFOR is also using a number of drones, which are circling over the area of the conflict.

The actual dismantling of the barricades has not started yet and Serbs are watching KFOR actions closely. The tension remains high. more