Riot police break up protest in Kosovo by ethnic Albanians
By Ermal Meta, AFP/Getty Images
(The Picture: Ethnic Albanians carry an injured protestor Saturday as anti-riot police units use tear gas to disperse some 2,000 ethnic Albanians protesting against a U.N. plan on the future status of Serbia's province.)
PRISTINA, Serbia (AP) — Riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at thousands of ethnic Albanians who demonstrated in Pristina on Saturday against a U.N. proposal for Kosovo they say does not go far enough in granting the province independence.
Some 70 people requested medical assistance, mainly from the effects of tear gas, while eight were injured, one seriously, police spokesman Veton Elshani said. Police said 14 protesters were arrested.
AP reporters at the scene said they saw at least two injured men covered in blood being carried away.
U.N. and Kosovo police broke up the protest after demonstrators tried to charge a security cordon and head toward a government building throwing stones and sticks at the officers. An estimated 3,000 people — many carrying banners reading "No negotiation, Self-determination" — took part in the rally on a main street in Kosovo's capital.
A U.N. car was overturned and its windows shattered as police and smaller groups of protesters continued clashes in side streets and back alleys before they dispersed.
U.N. Commander in Kosovo Resigns After Demonstrators' Deaths By NICHOLAS WOOD Published: February 15, 2007 ·
The commander of the United Nations police in Kosovo resigned Wednesday, days after violent clashes between the police and demonstrators left two protesters dead and another critically injured.
The commander, Stephen Curtis, a former British police officer, resigned under pressure from the mission's most senior official, Joachim R?r.
On Tuesday, autopsy reports showed that the two protesters, both men, had been killed by rubber-coated bullets. Television pictures of the demonstration on Saturday in the center of Pristina, the regional capital, showed members of a Romanian riot squad attached to the United Nations firing rubber bullets into the crowd. A third man remains in critical condition in a military hospital, United Nations officials said.
Mr. R?r said the commissioner's resignation ''would follow the principle of political accountability.'' He also appointed an international prosecutor to lead the investigation into the men's deaths.
The United Nations mission has come under substantial pressure to accept responsibility for the handling of the demonstration, which was held in protest of terms set out in a United Nations plan for Kosovo. In the plan, Kosovo is granted de facto statehood -- an army, a constitution and a flag -- but it would still be protected by NATO and overseen by the international community for the indefinite future.
Agim Ceku, prime minister of Kosovo's government, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians, has described the police measures as ''excessive,'' and Interior Minister Fatmir Rexhepi resigned Monday, saying he felt morally responsible for the men's deaths, although the police officers implicated in the shooting were not under his command.
The shootings left many people in Kosovo shocked, and took place at a critical juncture.
The United Nations is planning to withdraw from the region by the end of summer and grant the province substantial self-rule, subject to approval by the Security Council. The mission first took over administration of the province in June 1999, after a 78-day NATO-led bombing campaign drove out the Serbian-dominated security forces who were accused of widespread atrocities against the ethnic Albanian population that forms the majority of Kosovo.
The plan benefits the Albanian majority, but a small number of Albanians complain that it gives too many rights to the Serb minority, and that the international authorities are trying to retain a hold over the province.
In a show of political unity, all main Serbian parties on Wednesday rejected the United Nations proposal, Reuters reported. In its first act since inconclusive elections on Jan. 21, Serbia's new Parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution rejecting key aspects of the plan.
Vetevendosja, the group behind the demonstration on Saturday, has called for further protests next Monday.