Police step up security in Kosovo

U.N. and Kosovo police said Thursday they have stepped up security in the tense north of the province following an increase in violent crimes. Police increased patrols and vehicle checkpoints in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, a town divided between the Serb-dominated north and the ethnic Albanian south, a police statement said.

The town, 45 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital, Pristina, and divided by a river, has been the scene of violent clashes in the past and has come to epitomize Kosovo's prevailing ethnic divide. Tensions in that part of Kosovo remain high.

Two ethnic Serbs were wounded Monday in separate attacks by unknown assailants. A hand grenade was thrown in the yard of a house in the nearby town of Zvecan on Wednesday, damaging property, but no injuries were reported.

"The past few days have seen an increase in the use of firearms and explosives," said Kai Vittrup, the chief U.N. police commissioner. "This is unacceptable."

He said that as a result "we are further intensifying our security operation" in the northern part of the town, adding that there will be "a zero-tolerance for criminal behavior."

Kosovo, formally a province of Serbia-Montenegro, has been run by United Nations and patrolled by NATO since mid-1999.

There are fears that tensions could soar in the run-up to talks next year on whether Kosovo becomes independent, as demanded by ethnic Albanian majority or remains part of Serbia as favored by Belgrade and Serbs living in Kosovo, reports the AP. I.L.

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