2 NATO peacekeepers wounded and 23 Austrian and German soldiers injured in clashes in Kosovo
By Gobby Wang, Taiwan News, Staff Writer
According to AP, it reported, A German NATO officer and a soldier were shot and wounded and some 23 Austrian and German soldiers injured in clashes with Serb protesters in northern Kosovo throughout Monday after the military alliance's troops used heavy machinery to remove trucks and buses blocking a main road in the tense region, an official said.
The violence near the town of Zubin Potok, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Pristina comes after months of tensions, following a decision by Kosovan authorities to extend their authority in areas under de-facto Serb rule.
For months Serbs have used soil, rock and concrete barriers to block any such moves. NATO has threatened to remove the barriers because they cut off supply to a military base in the north. NATO has ultimate authority over security in Kosovo.
German and Austrian peacekeepers involved in the operation fired rubber bullets and tear gas and used water canons and pepper spray to disperse the crowd of Serb protesters trying to stop the soldiers from removing the roadblock.
"The commander of the battalion was shot and another soldier was also wounded," said NATO spokesman, Lt. Col. Uwe Nowitzky.
In Berlin, German military spokesman Lt. Col. Manfred Baumgartner told The Associated Press that the wounded officer and the soldier serve in the Bundeswehr. He said they were shot from the crowd of Serb protesters.
The two were sent to the U.S. military base in eastern Kosovo, Camp Bondsteel, for treatment, NATO said.
At NATO's headquarters in Brussels, the alliance said it was concerned about the violence and said it would carefully monitor developments in the northern country's north.
"The use of violence against (NATO) troops is unacceptable," spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said. "We urge all parties to exercise restraint and cooperate fully with all international actors on the ground to ensure freedom of movement without delay."
At least two injured Serb demonstrators were carried by medical workers to a nearby hospital, an AP reporter at the scene said. Serb media said dozens of Serb demonstrators sought medical help.
Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 has been recognized by 85 countries including the United States and most members of the European Union. But, many other nations still consider Kosovo's political status to be unresolved and want to see the two sides come to an agreement on resolving their dispute. Serbia does not recognize the new state.