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Kosovo Police Clash With Protesters At Mitrovica's Main Bridge

Kosovo Police Clash With Protesters At Mitrovica's Main Bridge
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WATCH: Kosovo police clash with protesters at Mitrovica's main bridge

Kosovo police in Mitrovica have clashed with Kosovo Albanian protesters on the main bridge that links the two sides of the ethnically divided city.

Protesters on June 22 threw rocks and burned cars at the bridge across the Ibar River while police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The violence came during what was meant to be a peaceful march against the latest move by Kosovo Serb authorities in the northern part of Mitrovica to block vehiclular traffic across the bridge by placing concrete plant pots on the bridge.

On June 18, ethnic Serbs used a bulldozer to clear an earth and rock barricade that had blocked the north side of the bridge for the last three years.

But later, concrete plant pots with small trees were placed on the bridge by Serb authorities who declared that they wanted to transform the bridge into a "peace park."

Both Belgrade and Serb authorities in northern Kosovo reject Pristina's 2008 unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.

But a deal brokered by the European Union last year between Belgrade and majority-Albanian Kosovo committed the Serbs to join Kosovo institutions and remove all barricades.

The de facto partition of Mitrovica was established in June 1999 after the NATO campaign against Serb forces in Kosovo.

Vehicles regularly cross one bridge on the eastern side of the city.

But other bridges in the center of the city have been blocked to vehiclular traffic, making it possible to cross the Ibar River at those locations only on foot.

Despite rapproachement between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in areas further to the south, ethnic tensions remain high in Mitrovica, 15 years after the end of the Kosovo war.