Teargas fired as Kosovo barricades dismantled

NATO troops unleashed volleys of tear gas on Thursday at Serbs trying to stop them dismantling barricades in northern Kosovo near the border with Serbia, leaving dozens needing treatment....
NATO troops unleashed volleys of tear gas on Thursday at Serbs trying to stop them dismantling barricades in northern Kosovo near the border with Serbia, leaving dozens needing treatment. The NATO-led Kosovo force (KFOR) said eight soldiers were injured while the reuters correspondent at the scene said the gas also affected dozens of Serbs.

by Vedat Xhymshiti, Friday, October 21, 2011 – Zubin Potok, Kosovo.

The KFOR troops were trying to disperse a crowd of up to 500 protesters near the main barricade at Zubin Potok, but only succeeded in forcing them back a matter of metres until the gas dispersed before returning, the reporter said.

NATO troops of the Portuguese contingent, removing the
barbed wire, at the entrance of the Zupce village, on
Friday, October 21, 2011.

Photo / Vedat Xhymshiti

A local Serb health official told Beta news agency that 22 Serbs were overcome by the teargas, including three people who fainted and were taken to a municipal health centre. Kfor said eight troops “were injured by tear gas, smoke and fire extinguishers.”

Kosovo’s Koha vision channel showed footage of scuffles between heavily protected KFOR troops and Serb protesters at the Zupce barricade, which KFOR had to pass to get to Zubin Potok.

The troops were seen using pepper spray against the most militant protesters, who sprayed them with fire extinguishers in return, creating clouds of gas that looked like thick smoke.

The EU rule of law mission Eulex, which was carrying out the operation to remove the roadblocks jointly with Kfor, said “barricades were removed and vehicle check points set up” around the Brnjak border crossing.

“There have been some minor incidents,” it added without giving any details other than to say some people were briefly detained.

Just minutes ago, two KFOR convoys of at least 50 vehicles had moved towards the Brnjak border crossing.

German and Austrian soldiers equipped with anti-riot gear urged Serbs staging a sit-down protest on the road to go home.

“Go home, otherwise we will be obliged to use force,” a KFOR representative said in Serbian over a public address system. Protesters on the barricade at Zubin Potok stressed that they would remain but not resort to violence.

Vedat Xhymshiti; is an independent journalist and war correspondent. He has reported on a number of Middle Eastern conflicts from the Arab Spring in 2010 to the current Syrian civil war. He has been published in various media including Der Spiegel, NY Times, TIME, Paris Match, Le Monde ect. He is specialized in International Relations and Diplomacy. Xhymshiti is also a print media critic, a columnist for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and founder of THEFrontliner.net

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