28 October 2006

Bridge in divided Kosovo town reopens days after attack on Serb man

Associated Press, Thursday, September 28, 2006 8:48 AM

PRISTINA, Serbia-International police said Thursday they reopened a bridge linking the two communities in an ethnically divided northern Kosovo town, days after a group of Albanian youths attacked a Serb.

The bridge over the Ibar River in Kosovska Mitrovica, 45 kilometers (30 miles) north of Pristina, reopened Thursday morning to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, police said in a statement.

It briefly reopened Monday morning, a month after an attack in August in which explosives were thrown into a bar, injuring nine people, but it was closed hours later after a group of ethnic Albanian teenagers attacked a 40-year-old ethnic Serb man nearby.

"There will be an even greater presence of international police and KPS (local) officers. KFOR (NATO peacekeepers) will also provide assistance, patrolling critical areas, to ensure the safety of all persons on, or near the bridge," the statement said.

Kosovo is still officially part of Serbia, but has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999, when NATO troops drove Serb forces out of the province.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, insist they should not be under Belgrade's authority. Serbia, as well as the Serb minority in Kosovo, say Kosovo is the heart of Serbia's ancient homeland and should remain within its borders.

U.N.-led negotiations to resolve Kosovo's status by the end of the year have stalled, with both sides unwilling to compromise on their demands. How to govern Kosovska Mitrovica is expected to be a major sticking point.