Kosovo violence: Children injured in Mitrovica blast


Two Serbian children have been injured after a hand grenade was apparently thrown at their home in the flashpoint northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica.

A three-year-old boy and a girl aged nine were hit in the back and head by shrapnel, said doctors.

It was the third attack on the Serb side of the divided town in 24 hours.

The area has seen occasional violence between Kosovo's Serbs and Albanians since the mostly Albanian territory seceded from Serbia in 2008.

Community tensions have increased as the European Union pushes the two sides through talks aimed at normalising ties.

Serbia appointed its first chief negotiator for Kosovo, Dejan Pavicevic, on Monday, a few days after Kosovo named a career diplomat, Lulzim Peci, as its representative to Serbia. They will be based in EU offices in Pristina and Belgrade respectively.

'Punishing the perpetrators'

Monday's explosion rocked the ethnically mixed area of Bosnjacka Mahala in Mitrovica.

Although the children's lives were not at immediate risk, doctors said they were considering transferring the children to a specialised clinic in Belgrade because of the danger of their wounds deteriorating, Tanjug news agency reported.

"We ask the international community to urgently, tonight, take a stand on what has happened and say that it will take responsibility for establishing the truth and punishing the perpetrators," the Serbian government's chief official for Kosovo, Aleksandar Vulin, was quoted as saying by local media.

Tension between Kosovo's ruling ethnic Albanian majority and remaining ethnic Serbs has resulted in violence in recent years, notably along the northern border with Serbia.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority broke away from Serbia in 1999 after an armed campaign which led to Nato intervening against Belgrade. It declared independence in 2008.

Belgrade, backed by its long-time ally Russia, has opposed any move for international recognition at the UN.

Kosovo is recognised as independent by about half the member-states of the UN, including the US and 22 of the EU's 27 members, though not such countries as Spain which have their own separatist movements.

Nato leads some 6,000 international peacekeeping troops stationed in Kosovo, while the EU runs a security and policing operation known as Eulex.

The EU has made clear Serbia's ongoing dispute with Kosovo remains an obstacle to Belgrade's hopes of joining the EU.

The two sides began EU-mediated talks aimed at normalising relations in March 2011.

Last October, Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci had talks with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic in Brussels - the first direct political contact between the two sides since Kosovo proclaimed independence in 2008.

The talks are to resume later this month.

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