by Lt.-Cdr. Philip Anido, KFOR Spokesperson
The violence that erupted around noon yesterday in Mitrovica just north of the Eastern Bridge, resulted in injuries to 22 Serbs and Albanians and 16 KFOR peacekeepers. The trouble began as a heated argument between two men and grew into a major street fight between Serbs and Albanians involving hand grenades and gunfire.
KFOR French, Danish, Swedish and German soldiers rapidly intervened and brought the melee under control. Their quick and firm reaction prevented the riot from spreading. Eight KFOR soldiers are still under observation for minor injuries, which resulted from shrapnel and debris thrown up by the grenades.
Four men have been arrested in connection with the incident and other arrests may follow.
"The anger between two men in Mitrovica yesterday could happen in any city in the world. However, the ease which the crowd resorted to violence using hand grenades and guns must be condemned by all leaders and citizens," says General Dr. Klaus Reinhardt, Commander of KFOR.
"Some individuals chose to throw grenades and shoot directly at the crowd that was being protected by KFOR peacekeepers, with absolute disregard for the lives and safety of civilians and soldiers alike," he adds. "I will seek the severest sanctions for those found to be involved in this or any future attacks on my soldiers, and I will hold their leaders directly responsible for such actions."
Four of the seven Albanians who were lightly injured, remain in the KFOR Moroccan hospital. Seventeen injured Serbs were evacuated to the civilian hospital in the northern part of the city for treatment. One of them is reported to be in serious condition.
In another related incident, yesterday afternoon at 3:50 p.m. an anti-tank rocket was fired at one of the apartment towers where Albanians, Serbs and Turks live together. There was damage to two flats occupied by Serb and Turk families on the 7th floor, but there were no injuries.
General Wesley Clark Visited Mitrovica
General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, made a brief visit to Multinational Brigade North in Mitrovica yesterday. He met with his commanders and UN officials to discuss security and democratization issues.
He also met privately with local Serb and Albanian leaders and spoke firmly to them about their role in upholding law and order and maintaining a peaceful environment. Without these conditions, extremists severely hinder the vital and urgent process of rebuilding civic order, administrative structures and confidence among all citizens.
Eurocorps Staff Arrive Today
This morning, some 40 new Eurocorps staff arrived at KFOR Main Headquarters at Film City to take up their duties alongside the experienced officers who are coming to the end of their six-month tour.
The transfer of authority and responsibilities will occur seamlessly when the official hand over from the KFOR Headquarters 2 to Headquarters 3 for KFOR takes place in April.
Events and incidents in Kosovo during the last 24 hours:
Attacks on Minorities
Last night, KFOR Norwegian patrols reported that about 150 Albanians ran riot though the main street of Obilic (MNB Centre) near the train station damaging Serb owned cars and breaking shop windows. The peacekeepers fired three warning shots and dispersed the violent mob before they attacked Serb houses. Law and order has been restored, but the atmosphere between the two communities remains very tense.
Yesterday afternoon, KFOR Greek soldiers reported that six men had thrown a hand grenade at a house in the Roma village of Dubrova (MNB East). They also fired automatic weapons at several buildings causing some damage. An investigation is underway.