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Violence Over Kosovo Bridge Continues

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From Times Wire Services

Ethnic Albanians angry over the division of their town hurled stones and taunted French peacekeepers again Sunday, demanding free movement across a bridge into the Serbian district.

Meanwhile, NATO-led peacekeepers on Sunday reported a number of grenade attacks in Kosovo during the night aimed mainly against Serbs and their property, injuring more than 10 people.

The clashes between ethnic Albanians and French peacekeepers came on the second day of violence on the bridge in the northwestern mining town of Kosovska Mitrovica.

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French troops there have been trying for weeks to prevent friction by barring most traffic across the bridge over the Ibar River, which separates Serbian and ethnic Albanian neighborhoods.

About 150 young ethnic Albanian men waving red-and-black flags threw stones at troops blocking the bridge Sunday with an armored personnel carrier.

At least one protester was arrested. One French soldier was led away dazed by his comrades after a stone struck him in the face.

“Our goal is to cool down the tension,” said French Capt. Bertrand Bonneau. “We try to understand they are impatient. We must remain vigilant.”

Sunday’s incident was on a smaller scale than a confrontation the previous day when hundreds of ethnic Albanians tried to cross the bridge to get to areas on the north side that Serbs have kept refugees from returning to. Hundreds of Serbs were waiting Sunday, taunting the protesters. The peacekeepers forced back the crowd, arresting four people.

Also Sunday, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization reported a grenade attack on a Serbian-run bar in Pristina, the provincial capital, which injured three people.

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In the town of Obilic, just outside Pristina, five people were injured, none seriously, when a grenade was thrown at a Serbian-owned bar.

In another incident, three assailants attacked a travel agency in central Pristina with a grenade. One of the three was seized by passersby and held until an armored patrol came to detain him.

Back in Kosovska Mitrovica, Kosovo Force, or KFOR, reported an attack by grenade and small arms on a Serbian district.

In another development, a group of about 500 new civilian police officers from 10 nations, including the United States, reported for duty Sunday.

They are the first group to finish training for a planned 3,100-strong international police force. The European Union envoy to Kosovo, however, has questioned whether the force will be enough to stem the nearly daily violence between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

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