Calls for a state of emergency in Kosovo's north come after a bomb attack kills an ethnic Albanian.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 10/04/12
The divided town of Mitrovica has been the site of ethnically-motivated violence since 1999. [Reuters]
After a blast on Sunday morning (April 8th) killed a Kosovo Albanian and wounded his two children at an apartment complex in Mitrovica, one political party has called for Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga to declare a state of emergency in the country's north.
Vetvendosje Movement has also said they will ask Albania's President Bamir Topi to call an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and NATO's Permanent Representatives.
The Three Towers apartments, where the bomb was placed, are inhabited by Albanians, in the predominantly Serbian part of the divided town.
The government has condemned the attack, calling it a "criminal and terrorist act."
Sporadic violence between Albanians and Serbs has occurred in the flashpoint area of northern Kosovo since 1999.
Currently, Serbia plans to hold local elections on May 6th in the divided town, allowing Serbs to choose mayors for local authorities. Kosovo has vowed to stop the elections, by force if necessary.
EU Special Representative in Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar urged for calm.
"I was shocked when I heard about the bombing which killed Selver Haradinaj in Mitrovica … I hope that this investigation will be carried out quickly and successfully. Meanwhile, I appeal to all communities to remain calm and leave the case in the hands of police," Zbogar said in a statement.
"Further acts of violence cannot, and must not, be tolerated. Such acts can only threaten Kosovo's peace and stability," he said.
Besim Hoti, Kosovo Police spokesperson, said that authorities are continuing the investigation. He said police, in co-operation with other municipal authorities, are trying to provide greater security for Mitrovica citizens, as well as to reduce tension in the area.
"We have an extremely tense situation, [and heightened] concerns of residents -- not just in the north, Albanian and Serbian residents -- but all other residents in the municipality and beyond," Hoti told Radio Free Europe on Monday.
Kosovo Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi said that the incident seems to have been carried out by a professional.
On Monday, around 200 Serbs prevented police from setting up guardhouses around the apartment complex, forcing police to withdraw to the southern part of the city.
Skender Deliu, executive director of the Pristina Institute for Criminal Studies and Security, told SETimes that he expects tensions to increase in the coming weeks leading up to the May 6th Serbian elections.
"It is clear that neither the Kosovo Police, nor KFOR nor EULEX, have control over the north and have limited access -- making the prevention of such acts impossible. Multi-ethnic neighbourhoods will be a target because tensions are always high in those areas," Deliu told SETimes.
He says that the label of "terrorist act" by the government is accurate because of the level of the incident.
"Throwing a explosive inside an apartment where a couple and their four children lived, just because of their ethnicity or any other difference they might have, is a terrorist act -- this shows that the government will use harsh language in the coming weeks and months," Deliu said.
Shkurte Sadiku from the Center for Conflict Research told SETimes that the communities are worried that the security situation might escalate.
"We know from experience that such incidents lead to [additional] tensions and unrest in Mitrovica. People are worried that this might happen now again," Sadiku said.
She says that police and KFOR need to show their presence and take measures.
"There is no trust in police or KFOR anymore there, because people who do such acts rarely are arrested and brought to justice. Security institutions are losing the confidence of the citizens, and we hope that they will not lose the limited control they have there."
Citizens in Mitrovica also condemned the act, and feared the repercussions.
"I am afraid that we in the south might be attacked as well. I hope those acts will be stopped and no one gets hurt anymore. We are tired of violence and conflict," Rrahman Krasniqi, 70, from Mitrovica, told SETimes.
"I am worried about my children and our safety. This can happen to everyone, and no one offers changes," Lejla Popovic, 29, from Northern Mitrovica told SETimes.
Hours after the blast, a 66-year-old Kosovo Serb was assaulted and injured by three ethnic Albanians in the Suvi Do neighbourhood according to media reports.
Vladimir Denović sustained severe head and chest injuries, according to his doctors.