Rampaging Serbian Militants Target Kosovo Polling Places

Tuesday, 05 Nov 2013 05:57 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Questions are being raised about a power-sharing agreement in Kosovo after suspected Serbian hardliners employed intimidation and violence to prevent local elections from going forward over the weekend, the New York Times reported.
 
In April, the European Union brokered an agreement between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and its Serbian minority in an effort to overcome centuries of ethnic conflict.

Under the deal,  Serbia agreed to recognize the authority of Kosovo’s government over the court system and the police in  the ethnically divided northern part of the nation.

In exchange, the government of Kosovo agreed to expanded autonomy for Serbs in the northern part of the country.

But on Sunday, Mitrovica, an ethnically tense city of more than  70,000 in the north, saw a brutal display of violence two hours before the polls closed. Witnesses said a few dozen masked men, some carrying baseball bats, stormed three schools being used as polling places.

They smashed ballot boxes and assaulted election officials. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Kosovo, an explosive device was found at one school. An OSCE representative said that while voting proceeded well in much of Kosovo, it was interrupted at 27 of 33 polling stations in the north, The Times reported.
 
The Guardian reported that as a result of the rampage, the OSCE withdrew 60 of its area staff of several hundred from the area.
 
But analysts said the attacks underlined the challenges Kosovo authorities faced in getting Serbian support. Before the vote, election protesters in Mitrovica erected signs urging people not to vote, with some reading “Don’t Be a Traitor,” according to the Times.

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