Kosovo Serbs defy NATO deadline on barricades

AP , Tuesday 18 Oct 2011

Kosovo Serbs refuse to remove barricades from main roads in the contested northern Kosovo, a request NATO-led troops had given a Tuesday deadline

Serbs defied a Tuesday deadline to remove roadblocks in northern Kosovo and gathered by the hundreds to protect them from removal by NATO-led troops.

The 5,500-strong peacekeeping force had requested that the 16 barriers consisting of rocks, mud and logs be taken down by early Tuesday.

Hundreds of Serbs gathered at the barriersto protect them from forced removal by the peacekeepers who say they want to establish freedom of movement in the region, and reopen supply routes for their troops.

For nearly three months, Kosovo Serbs have been blocking main roads to stop Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership from extending their control over the Serb-run territory. Serbs reject Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.

NATO spokesman in Kosovo Lt. Col. Uwe Nowitzky told The Associated Press that the force deployed two military supply convoys from Pristina on Tuesday to supply the troops in the tense north.

One peacekeepers'convoy was stopped Tuesday at a barricade and returned to government-controlled territory after an agreement with local Kosovo Serbs that no force should be used.

In July, ethnic Albanian authorities deployed its security forces to two border checkpoints in northern Kosovo to enforce a trade ban with Serbia. Serbs reacted by blocking roads and triggering clashes with Kosovo police that left one police officer dead.

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