© Reuters. A police water cannon tries to extinguish the fire from a burning police car, during clashes between Kosovo police and ethnic Serb protesters, who tried to prevent a newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayor from entering his office, in the town of Zvecan, Koso
By Fatos Bytyci
ZVECAN, Kosovo (Reuters) -Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic placed the country’s army on full combat alert and ordered army units to move closer to the border with Kosovo on Friday, after protesters and police clashed in a majority Serb town in the neighbouring country.
“An urgent movement (of troops) to the Kosovo border has been ordered,” defence minister Milos Vucevic said in a live TV broadcast. “It is clear that the terror against the Serb community in Kosovo is happening,” he said.
Police fired tear gas in the town of Zvecan to disperse a crowd from in front of a municipality building. The protesters were trying to prevent a newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayor from entering his office following an election which Kosovo Serbs had boycotted.
Some 50,000 Serbs living in four north Kosovo municipalities, including Zvecan, shunned the April 23 vote in protest that their demands for more autonomy had not been met – a new setback for a March peace deal between Kosovo and Serbia.
In a statement, the Kosovo police said five of its officers were slightly injured when protesters pelted them with rocks and other objects. Four police vehicles were attacked, including one that was set ablaze, the statement said. Gunfire was also heard in the area, it said.
Around 10 people sought medical attention in a local hospital for light injuries and the effects of tear gas, local Serb health authorities said.
Blerim Vela, chief of staff of Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani accused “Serbia’s illegal and criminal structures” for escalating tensions and actions against law enforcement bodies.
“Violence will not prevail. Serbia bears full responsibility for the escalation,” he said in a statement.
Several vehicles from the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo have been seen in the vicinity of the site of the incident, while helicopters flew over the area, a Reuters reporter said.
Jeffrey Hovenier, the United States ambassador to Pristina condemned the police action.
“The U.S. condemns the ongoing action by Kosovan authorities to access municipal buildings in the north of Kosovo. Today’s violent measures should be immediately terminated,” he said on Twitter.
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