NATO Soldier, 3 Serbs Wounded in Kosovo Clash
A NATO soldier and three Serbs were wounded Friday when KFOR used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd that clashed with units removing Serb-held barricades in northern Kosovo.
KFOR spokesman Uwe Nowitzki told Agence France Presse that one soldier was wounded "during the removal operation in (the village of) Rudare", the latest in a series of clashes in the flashpoint area since last year.
Local media in Pristina reported that the wounded soldier was a member of US forces with the NATO-led troops
Oliver Ivanovic, Serbia's state secretary for Kosovo, told Tanjug news agency three Kosovo Serbs were wounded when KFOR troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse several hundred people protesting at the barricade's removal.
Ivanovic said about 150 KFOR soldiers were deployed in the area where local Serbs had set up the roadblock to prevent ethnic Albanian Kosovo police from entering the Serb-populated area.
Northern Kosovo has been a scene of serious clashes since the Serbs first set up roadblocks last July. In November, some 50 KFOR soldiers were hurt as they moved to dismantle barricades erected at the border by Serbs.
Kosovo's minority Serbs, who do not recognize Pristina's declaration of independence in 2008, set up the road blockades to prevent ethnic Albanian police and customs officials from reaching the border with Serbia proper.
Most were removed in February as a result of a EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
KFOR said earlier that its units were "conducting a roadblock removal operation" near Rudare to "improve freedom of movement not only for KFOR but also for international organizations and for all people in Kosovo".
Out of a population of about two million, there are some 120,000 ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, with 40,000 in the north on the border with Serbia and the rest in enclaves dotted around the territory.
Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by more than 80 countries, including the United States and most of EU member states.