An EU-led court in Kosovo has sentenced 10 ethnic Albanians to up to nine years in prison for terrorism aimed at provoking a conflict in southern Serbia, officials said Thursday.
The 10 were found guilty of "terrorism and organisation/participation in a terrorist group... that executed an armed attack on (a) Serbian checkpoint", the EU rule of law mission (EULEX) said in a statement.
The incident occurred in June 2012, when attackers fired at a Serbian police border post, slightly injuring one officer.
The accused's sentences, which ranged from two to nine years, were handed down by a court in the eastern Kosovo town of Gnjilane on Wednesday.
The panel of judges found that the group sought to foment conflict in the Presevo valley in southern Serbia "to compel the international community to intervene," the statement said.
The Presevo valley, which borders Kosovo, is mostly populated by ethnic Albanians whose political leaders have repeatedly sought to join Kosovo or be given the same level of autonomy awarded to the Serb minority living in northern Kosovo.
The terrorism verdict is the first of its kind since Kosovo and Serbia reached a landmark deal in April brokered by the EU to normalize their relations, which remained tense after the 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian security forces.
The deal sets up a certain level of autonomy for some 40,000 ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo, alongside the border with Serbia proper over which Pristina has almost no control.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The EU then launched its biggest ever civilian mission there to help the local judiciary and police.
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