Bombs rattle Kosovo's frontier with Serbia

Violence rocked northern Kosovo on Tuesday as Serbs protesting the breakaway province's declaration of independence set off bombs and burned down a border post.

Violence rocked northern Kosovo on Tuesday as Serbs protesting the breakaway province's declaration of independence set off bombs and burned down a border post.

Kosovo Serbs destroy and burn UN vehicles on the checkpoint in Jarinje, on the Serbia-Kosovo border, on Tuesday. ((Srdjan Ilic/Associated Press))

One blast damaged several cars near a United Nations building in Kosovska Mitrovica, while two other hand-grenade explosions hit deserted homes belonging to ethnic Albanians who had fled the northern town years ago. The town is a stronghold for ethnic Serbs within Albanian-majority Kosovo.

Demonstrators also burned down a control station on Kosovo's border with Serbia in the town of Jarinje, and 1,000 people attacked another border station in Zubin Potok, where customs police took shelter from the attacks in a tunnel.

Police requested support from the 16,000 NATO troops stationed in the country as part of the military alliance's Kosovo peacekeeping force. NATO said it had deployed troops to Jarinje and more were on the way to Zubin Potok.

NATO troops later cut off roads that were the only link between northern Kosovo and Serbia, said a UN spokesman.

No injuries were reported in any of the attacks.

Serbs in mostly Albanian Kosovo and across the frontier in Serbia jointly organized the protests to try to prevent Kosovo officials from raising their flag for the first time at the border posts, Serbian journalist Zoran Dogramadziev told the BBC.

"I was told by Serb officials that … Serbs are going to block all the entries to Kosovo from the Serbian side, and Serbs from Kosovo [will block] the exits from the areas where they can," Dogramadziev said.

The demonstrations came a day after several major Western powers recognized the province's independence. Germany, France, Britain and the United States have all accepted Kosovo's unilateral separation from Serbia, declared Sunday.

However, major powers Russia and China, as well as countries like Spain and Greece, have rejected the move, saying it violates international laws on the secession of provinces.

Celebrate for 3rd day

The scene was different in the capital, Pristina, where Kosovars celebrated their independence for a third straight day with singing and dancing in the streets.

"It's a very good mood," reporter Tim Judah told CBC News. "There are a lot of high school kids walking around with flags singing and celebrating. The mood of euphoria … is still there. People are getting back to work and getting back to normal."

The failure of many countries to acknowledge Kosovo's independence didn't disturb the festivities, Judah said.

"People are shrugging it off. It's not news to people here — they've known for years and years that that would be the case, and if it hadn't been for the resistance of those countries, then Kosovo would have been independent quite some time ago."

The European Union's foreign-affairs chief, Javier Solana, was expected to arrive later Tuesday to meet with Kosovo's leaders. The EU is deeply split over Kosovo's independence, but is nevertheless planning to send a mission of 2,000 police and judicial officials to help build up legal and political systems.

The breakaway province was formally a part of Serbia until Sunday, but had been run by the UN since 1999, when NATO air strikes ended a Serbian crackdown on Albanian separatists that killed 10,000 people.

Canada uncommitted

Canada still hadn't declared Tuesday whether it would formally acknowledge Kosovo's independence.

The Foreign Affairs Department said Monday it was "assessing the situation," and Canadian officials monitored a Security Council emergency meeting the same day on the situation in the Balkans.

If Canada recognizes Kosovo's secession, Serbia will withdraw its top diplomat from Ottawa, Serbian ambassador Dusan Batakovic cautioned.

"All ambassadors in the countries who will recognize Kosovo …. will be recalled within 48 hours, including myself," he said.

Belgrade has recalled its envoys to the United States and several other Western countries, but has said it will not sever diplomatic ties entirely.

Batakovic added he doesn't expect many more nations will welcome an independent Kosovo in the days to come.

"Can you imagine China, Indonesia, India and other major nations — that have a similar problem as we have in Kosovo with minorities — that they would recognize such a precedent? I'm doubtful."

With files from the Associated Press