Tensions rise in northern Kosovo, Serbia puts army on alert

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Protesting Serbs in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo erected new barricades on Tuesday, hours after Serbia said it had put its army on the highest combat alert following weeks of escalating tensions between Belgrade and Pristina.

Serbia’s defence ministry said in a statement late on Monday that in response to the latest events in the region and its belief that Kosovo was preparing to attack Serbs and forcefully remove the barricades, President Aleksandar Vucic had ordered Serbia’s army and police to be put on the highest alert.

“There is no reason to panic, but there is reason to be concerned,” Serbia’s defence minister Milos Vucevic told RTS television late on Monday. Since Dec. 10, Serbs in northern Kosovo have erected multiple roadblocks in and around Mitrovica and exchanged fire with police after the arrest of a former Serb policeman for allegedly assaulting serving police officers during a previous protest.

Around 50,000 Serbs live in the northern part of Albanian-majority Kosovo and refuse to recognise the Pristina government or the state. They see Belgrade as their capital and are backed by Serbia, from which Kosovo declared independence in 2008.—Agencies