Serbs living in northern areas of Kosovo rioted against western peacekeepers in the worst unrest since the Muslim dominated government of Kosovo declared its independence. UN riot police backed by NATO helicopters and armored vehicles used stun grenades and teargas to restore control of a court-building occpied by Serb activists in the Serb controlled town of Mitrovica. Dozens of people were hurt in explosions and clashes after riot police stormed the building at dawn. Most of Mitrovica’s 40,000 people are Serbs who oppose the Muslim decision to make Kosovo an independent nation and break away from control by Serbia.
There is little question the 300 Serbs who took over the court house were being supported by Serbian officials. The protestors raised Serbian flags over the building and indicated they want to remain part of Serbia. Milan Ivanovie, the Serbian leader claimed the Kosovo govenment had ordered NATO forces to drive out the protestors. There is fear Serbia wants to create a separate Serbian led government in northern Kosovo which would run the area, and, in effect, declare its independence from the govenment of Kosovo.
As always, ethnic conflicts divide and separate people in Europe and other parts of the world. The tangled web of anger and hate will not soon disappear from Kosovo until its government and Serbia can create the semblance of peaceful relations.