(dpa) - UN police Wednesday began returning to the restive Kosovo town of Mitrovica after fleeing from Serb rioters who killed a police officer and wounded more than 60 others.
NATO troops who rushed in Monday to quell the unrest in the divided town will gradually pull back by Friday, UN police spokesman Veton Elshani said.
This week's violence was the worst since mostly ethnic Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17. Belgrade views the former Yugoslav province as its spiritual heartland and refuses to recognize its independence.
Twelve French soldiers were wounded in the clashes, which erupted when NATO troops evicted Serb protesters who had occupied a Mitrovica courthouse. A Ukrainian soldier died from a grenade explosion.
US troops Wednesday guarded the town's strategically important bridge over the Ibar river, which runs through the ethnically divided town and separates the Serb-dominated northern part from the rest of Kosovo.
Kosovo's independence led to the collapse of Serbia's government and early parliamentary elections, set for May 11. Serb nationalists in Kosovo are seeking to separate the former province and rejoin Serbia.
In a new sign of Serb isolation, Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary on Tuesday became Serbia's first neighbours to announced they are recognizing Kosovo's independence.
More than 30 countries have recognized Kosovo as Europe's newest nation, but Russia and Serbia have not.