Kosovo protest turns violent

Demonstrators in Pristina, Kosovo, fought with police and set fire to the government's headquarters on Saturday as anger simmers in the young Balkan country over an accord with its former ruler, Serbia.

Protesters set fire to government HQ, hurl rocks at police

A protester kicks a tear gas canister back to police during clashes in Pristina, Kosovo, on Saturday. (Agron Beqiri/Reuters)

Demonstrators in Kosovo fought with police and set fire to the government's headquarters in Pristina on Saturday as anger simmers in the young Balkan country over an accord with its former ruler, Serbia.

The demonstrators were protesting against a European Union-brokered deal to give Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority greater local government powers and the possibility of financing from Belgrade.

Opposition leaders say the government should resign over the accord and call an early election.

Government building set on fire

The seat of government in the capital, Pristina, briefly caught fire after it came under a hail of petrol bombs. Firefighters quickly doused the flames and police used tear gas to drive back several thousand opposition demonstrators.

A Kosovo government building is set on fire by protesters during clashes in Pristina on Saturday. (Agron Beqiri/Reuters)
(Hazir Reka/Reuters)

Protest turns violent

Demonstrators hurled petrol bombs, stones and bottles and set light to several armoured police cars.

A protester holds an Albanian flag as he throws a stone at police. (Agron Beqiri/Reuters)
(Hazir Reka/Reuters)
A protester kicks a tear gas canister back at police. (Agron Beqiri/Reuters)

Kosovo's government has accused opposition party leaders of organising the violence and attempting to drag the country into "crime and anarchy."

"The aim of this protest was to overthrow the government with violence and leave the country in the hands of the incriminated people that today set on fire the [government)] building and police," it said in a statement.

A police vehicle was set on fire by protesters during the clashes. (Agron Beqiri/Reuters)
One of the police vehicles sprayed a water cannon at another after it was set on fire. (Agron Beqiri/Reuters)

Protests have frequently turned violent over the past year and opposition MPs have repeatedly disrupted the work of parliament by releasing tear gas in the chamber.

About 40 demonstrators arrested

Police said 28 people were hurt, including 24 police officers and two journalists. Around 40 protesters were arrested and police confiscated knives and petrol bombs.

A man runs amidst tear gas sprayed by police. (Agron Beqiri/Reuters)
Police try to put out a fire after protesters threw molotov cocktails during the clashes. (Agron Beqiri/Reuters)

Opposition parties said they will organize more protests until the government resigns.

Kosovo, which is majority Albanian, declared independence from Serbia with Western support in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes drove out Serbian security forces accused of killing and expelling civilians from the ethnic Albanian majority during a counter-insurgency war.

(Agron Beqiri/Reuters)

Serbia does not recognize its former southern province as independent, but both are under pressure from the EU to normalize their relations if they are to progress towards membership of the bloc.

Many Kosovo Albanians believe the accord with Serbia represents a threat to Kosovo's hard-won sovereignty, now recognised by more than 100 countries including the major Western powers.


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