21 NATO soldiers wounded in Kosovo clash

A fire burns next to a German KFOR armored personnel carrier at the border crossing Jarinje, September 16, 2011

From Fatos Bytyci, Reuters:  Twenty-one NATO soldiers were wounded overnight, one seriously, when Serbs in Kosovo fought with peacekeepers trying to remove barricades erected against the country’s ethnic Albanian authorities, the alliance said on Thursday.

It was the latest spasm of violence in a months-long standoff in the mainly Serb north of Kosovo that Western diplomats say could cost Serbia official candidate status for membership of the European Union when the bloc meets next month.

Kosovo, where 90 percent of the 1.7 million people are ethnic Albanians, declared independence from Serbia in 2008. But Serbs in a small slice of the north bordering Serbia reject the secession, and the West has struggled to tackle the country’s de facto ethnic partition.

Clashes broke out around midnight when soldiers of NATO’s 6,250-strong Kosovo Force (KFOR) tried to remove one of more than a dozen roadblocks set up by Serbs after Kosovo’s government tried to send border police to the north in July.

"The demonstrators used force including the throwing of stones and pushing back KFOR troops by attacking them with trucks loaded with gravel," KFOR said in a statement.

One soldier was seriously wounded when he was hit by a truck. The statement said peacekeepers responded with tear gas, batons and warning shots fired into the air.  (photo: Getty)

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