The NATO-led international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) said on Friday that it was criminal groups that incited violence during a protest in northern Kosovo late last month, injuring several security forces.
“It was clear that people were trying to cheer and protest peacefully, but it was also clear that some criminal groups were hiding behind them, trying to attack only KFOR troops,” KFOR spokesperson Colonel Andrea Gallieni said at a press conference in the capital Pristina, referring to an attack in northern Zvecan municipality on May 29 that injured 30 soldiers.
During the protest, he said many KFOR soldiers were injured by thrown stones, homemade explosives, and weapons.
Around 500 Turkish soldiers have arrived and are stationed at Camp Sultan Murat, near the capital Pristina.
“The Turkish battalion has been deployed in Kosovo from June 5th. They are currently integrating and training with other KFOR units. They will be deployed to support activities to prevent further escalation of tensions.
“Of course, they can be deployed in the north, as KFOR’s main force is improving the presence to ensure security. The concentration effort is currently in the north, but reservists can be deployed as and when required,” Gallieni said.
In terms of security, he said the situation in the north has calmed down for now.
Tensions have risen in Kosovo following the election of ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-dominated municipalities in the country’s north last month.
Ethnic Serbs have been protesting the election of ethnic Albanian mayors since late May.
On May 29, at least 30 soldiers of the NATO-led international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) were injured in clashes with Serbs who were protesting and attempting to prevent the newly-elected mayor of Zvecan municipality from entering town hall to take the oath of office and begin official responsibilities.
According to hospital sources, over 53 civilians were also injured by shock bombs and tear gas.
Police in Kosovo also said that at least five people were detained following the clashes.
The European Union also expressed concern over the Serbian Armed Forces being on their highest alert.
Serbia ordered its army in late May to advance to the border with Kosovo and urged NATO to stop violence against local Serbs in Kosovo.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also asked the country’s army and security forces to be combat-ready.