Serbs mark Kosovo riots anniversary

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA: Serbs in the flashpoint Kosovo town of Mitrovica on Tuesday marked the fifth anniversary of riots that left 19 dead and 900 injured.

Kosovo Serb leaders laid flowers on the bridge over the Ibar river, which splits the northern town, in honour of the victims of the worst violence since Nato entered the disputed territory after its 1998-99 war. 

“Even five years later, there is no progress regarding our lives and our existence in this territory,” Ljubisa Petrovic, deputy mayor of the ethnically divided town’s Serb-populated north, said.

On March 17, 2004, Kosovo Albanians started three days of anti-Serb rioting that also targeted dozens of Orthodox churches and monasteries that were destroyed or damaged.

“We still live with the possibility of a similar riots. The situation hasn’t improved, not even a little bit,” said Petrovic.

“The only thing that we can do is to appeal to the authorities to take this situation seriously. I’m asking them to do everything in their power so that people in Kosovo can live a decent life.”

The 2004 riots forced many Serbs living in southern parts of Kosovo to flee to northern areas close to Serbia’s border, including their stronghold in the northern half of Mitrovica.

“We were chased from our homes,” said Krsto Todorovic, whose family came to Mitrovica from the central enclave of Obilic at the time.

“I don’t think we can return to Obilic. We don’t know where we can go. We’ll have to stay here because we don’t have a better solution,” the 60-year-old said.

Kosovo has been overseen by international peacekeepers since Nato’s 1999 air war drove out Serbian forces waging a crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanian rebels.

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