NATO closes Kosovo border points to Serbia amid violence

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 19:09 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - NATO-led peacekeepers have closed two border crossings with Serbia on Tuesday and stepped up its presence in the are owing to an "escalating situation" on the other side, police said in Pristina.

The peacekeepers from the KFOR mission took control over the crossings from the Kosovo and international police, shortly before noon, spokesman Veton Elshani told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

"There are two border crossings in northern Kosovo which are closed, at Janjine and Leposavic, due to the very serious situation which is escalating there," Elshani said.

One of the crossing points the Serbian side was torched and the other one blown up in an explosion.

"Police has completely withdrawn from the places and KFOR is in charge now," Elshani said.

KFOR has sent reinforcement in the north, KFOR spokesman, Colonel Bertrand Bonneau, told dpa.

"We are reinforcing in northern Kosovo after these two incidents," he said. "We have set up checkpoints in the area and we will use all necessary means to put the situation under control."

KFOR has also started to evacuate the international and Kosovo police officers which took shelter in a nearby tunnel, the KFOR spokesperson said.

"We have started evacuating (the police officers) by helicopter but also with our armoured vehicles," a French KFOR commander told dpa.

He also said that a "convoy of around 70 vehicles, including 10 buses, had passed the frontier and entered Kosovo," at the time of the attacks on the two border crossing points, but were stopped later by UN police.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on Sunday and was already recognized by several countries, including the United States.

The split of what Serbs regard as their heartland soil, which today is dominated by a 90-per-cent majority, has spurred violent protests in Belgrade and other Serbian cities over the past two days.