Kosovo bridge blockade provokes violent protests
Nato peacekeepers called in to help Kosovo police during protests against barricaded bridge
Police have clashed with protesters in Kosovo, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of rioting Albanians amid anger over a bridge barricade in the city of Mitrovica.
At least 13 policeman and 10 civilians were injured as Albanian demonstrators set cars alight and hurled bricks, bottles and rocks at Kosovo police while demonstrating against a blockade rebuilt by the minority Serb community, the BBC reports.
US soldiers, belonging to a 5,000-strong Nato peacekeeping force residing in Kosovo, were called in to support local police against demonstrators.
The bridge divides the north of the city, a predominantly Serb area, from the Albanian district in the south. Albanians say the barricade is intended to prevent Albanians from passing through.
The blockade was set up in 2011 by Serbs trying to maintain their independence from the Kosovo government, Al Jazeera reports. "The Serbs dismantled the roadblock on Wednesday, only to replace it with a 'Park of Peace' consisting of concrete plant pots and earth," the broadcaster reports.
In response, ethnic Albanian protesters gathered at the bridge.
Avni Zahiti, a spokesman for Kosovo police, told Euronews: "There was an attempt by a group of protesters to break through the police cordon on the bridge. The police was forced to use all the means at our disposal to control the crowd. They became violent and used hard objects against us and citizens."
Despite efforts to resolve tensions between Serb and Albanian communities since Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, hostility has persisted.