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Kosovo: pro-independence protesters attack UN headquarters; no injuries

Kosovo: pro-independence protesters attack UN headquarters; no injuries

Some 2,000 members of a pro-independence ethnic Albanian group in Kosovo attacked United Nations personnel yesterday in the Serbian province’s capital, Pristina, pulling down a 4-metre tall concrete barricade outside UN headquarters and hurling concrete blocks and an incendiary device at police officers inside.

Police responded with tear gas to disperse the Vetëvendosja (self-determination) protesters, who broke over 20 windows and threw glass bottles of red paint onto police and security staff and the building, UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Police spokesman Thomas E. Lee told a news briefing in Pristina today.

Police quickly gained control of the situation and there were no reports of injuries to police, protestors or bystanders. Increased security operations remains in effect in the Albanian-majority province, which the world body has run ever since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting.

Two weeks ago, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Joachim Rücker warned against “unilateral actions” as the UN prepares to submit a proposal early next year for the future status of the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1. Independence and autonomy are among the options but Serbia rejects independence.

“It is really a sad reflection of the mentality of a very small section of the population that does not seem to understand the political process – its importance and implications of their own actions – that does not seem to appreciate the hard work that has been put in by their leadership and institutions in bringing Kosovo so far, and that still seems to be looking for a ‘language’ to express themselves,” UNMIK Spokesman Neeraj Singh said of the violence.

In a related development, Mr. Singh reported that from June 1999 almost 43 million square metres of land has been cleared and 73,737 mines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) have been destroyed. During that time 111 people were killed and 418 injured by mines or UXOs, mainly in 1999 and 2000. So far in 2006 there have been 10 injuries and one death.