THE ETHNICALLY divided town of Mitrovica, in Kosovo, was under curfew last night after violent clashes between ethnic Albanians and Nato-led troops that left five K-For peace-keepers wounded, one with a broken arm.
Troops fired a barrage of tear-gas after being pelted with rocks by angry Albanians following one of the worst weeks of violence in the province since the Nato-led force moved in last summer. The previous night, three people had been killed and 20 wounded in violence between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
The French military commander of Kosovo's northern sector, General Pierre de Saqui de Sannes, said that he was imposing a three- night curfew on Mitrovica to help bring calm. "The situation is so tense that security comes before everything else," he said.
People in the crowd lobbed rocks and bottles for about half an hour while peace-keepers, wearing riot shields and body armour, launched rounds of tear gas. The violence finally subsided with the arrival of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), which was formed to provide a new role for ex- Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas who fought against Serb rule.
The French general acknowledged that crowd control was within the remit of the KPC, an emergency relief organisation, but he defended working with it. "I need partners who have authority," he said when he arrived at the bridge dividing the town, as KPC officers tried to make the crowd settle down.
The overnight deaths followed a rocket attack on a United Nations bus in the Mitrovica region on Wednesday that killed two Serbs and wounded three, heightening tension between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and its Serb minority. …