Report: Germany to send reinforcements to volatile Kosovo
Germany will send urgent reinforcements to the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) as upcoming polls in Serbia have raised tensions in its mostly Albanian former province, according to German magazine Spiegel.
Spiegel reported in its online edition that 550 soldiers will join KFOR ahead of the May 6 elections. In addition, around 150 Austrian troops will also be deployed, amid fears that violence may erupt in the Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, dpa reported.
The troops will be deployed on May 1, according to Spiegel. The reinforcements come shortly after NATO reduced its presence in Kosovo to 5,300 troops, 1,300 of them from Germany.
On Friday, the European Union's law-enforcing mission in Kosovo (EULEX) said it will step up police patrols in the north because of "increased tensions in recent weeks."
Kosovo split from Serbia in 2008 and was recognized by many but not all Western powers, but Belgrade still insists on sovereignty, and Serbs in the north resist the authority of the government in Pristina.
Tensions rose after Serbia announced plans to hold elections in northern Kosovo - signalling that it is not giving up its claim over it. The authorities in Pristina authorities pledged to work to to prevent the election.
The north has been hit by a spate of violent attacks in recent weeks, the worst a bomb attack two weeks ago which killed one of the few Albanians living in the northern Serb enclave.
KFOR was deployed in Kosovo after NATO ousted Serbian security forces to end the war in 1999, whilst the EU sent the EULEX after Kosovo declared independence, to help it build state institutions and assert the rule of law.