ZVECAN: Police used tear gas on Friday to disperse Serbs who gathered in front of municipal buildings in northern Kosovo, after police helped install ethnic Albanian mayors following controversial elections.
Serbian residents -- who rallied at the sound of an alarm commonly used in response to the presence of Kosovo Police -- clashed with the officers in the Serb-majority town of Zvecan, AFP journalist saw. They were eventually pushed back.
In various videos posted online, gunshots and shock bombs could also be heard.
Ambulances arrived at the scene but it was not immediately clear if there were injuries.
Kosovo police did not comment on the incidents, but only confirmed that officers were assisting newly elected mayors to enter the premises.
“According to their official duty, today the Kosovo Police is assisting the mayors... to exercise their right to work, in the official facilities of the respective municipalities,“ the Kosovo Police said in a statement.
Police managed to enter the premises of the Zvecan municipality, AFP journalist saw.
At least one police vehicle was destroyed during the unrest, according to local media.
Serbia placed its army on high alert and was ordered to move towards Kosovo border, Serbian defence minister told local media.
The Serbian army has been put on a heightened state of alert over tensions with Kosovo multiple times in recent years -- the last time in December after Serbs erected barricades to protest the arrest of an ex-policeman.
There are frequent bouts of unrest in the northern enclaves, where many ethnic Serbs remained loyal to Belgrade and never accepted the unilateral declaration of independence that Kosovo made from its neighbour in 2008.
An estimated 120,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, many in the four northern districts.
Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority boycotted local elections in the north in April, allowing local ethnic Albanians to take control of the local councils despite the vote was marred by a turnout of less than 3.5 percent.
Belgrade backed the boycott and is pushing for an “association of Serb municipalities” -- a form of autonomy for the Serb minority in Kosovo, where the majority of the 1.8 million inhabitants are ethnic Albanian.
The main Serb party from Kosovo announced that there will be a “decisive response” from the Serbs if the “repression” of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti does not stop.
In March, Kosovo and Serbia stopped short of signing a potentially landmark deal to normalise their relations, despite months of shuttle diplomacy by European Union mediators. - AFP