Kosovo Albanian protesters hurled stones at an armored motorcade carrying Serbian President Boris Tadic Friday as he marked Orthodox Christmas in the former Serbian province, where Serb-Albanian tensions have resurfaced.
Decani, KOSOVO – Friday, January 4, 2012 – (REUTERS)
Kosovo’s population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, and it became the last state to emerge from the remains of federal Yugoslavia when it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Serbia rejects the secession, and tensions have been rising since July last year when Kosovo’s government tried to stamp its authority on a largely lawless slice of north Kosovo inhabited by minority Serbs.
A crowd of some 200 Kosovo Albanians in the western town of Decani lobbed stones at Tadic’s convoy, which was escorted by officers of the European Union’s police and justice mission in Kosovo.
Kosovo police secured the route, jostling with protesters to keep them back from the road. The convoy managed to enter the grounds of the Decani Orthodox monastery, where Tadic will mark Serbian Orthodox Christmas.
“A number of stones were thrown, a number of cars received minor damage. President Boris Tadic’s car was not hit,” said Nicholas Hawton, spokesman for the EU mission, EULEX.
Tadic traditionally visits the 14th century marble monastery in Decani to mark Serbian Orthodox Christmas on January 7.
Steeped in Serb history and myth, Kosovo is dotted with centuries-old Orthodox religious sites and considered by many Serbs as the cradle of their nation.
But Serbia lost control over the territory in 1999 when NATO bombed it for 11 weeks to halt the killing and expulsion of Albanian civilians by Serb forces fighting a two-year counter-insurgency war under then strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Previous visits by Tadic have generally passed without incident. But a row between Serbia and Kosovo over trade and control of a disputed stretch of the border between them has triggered violence in north Kosovo between minority Serbs and NATO peacekeepers over the past six months.
The spike in tensions last month cost Serbia official candidate status for membership of the European Union.
(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Tim Pearce)
Copyright © 2012, Reuters
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