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EU police mission member shot dead in northern Kosovo

A member of the European Union's police mission in Kosovo has been shot dead near the flashpoint border with Serbia. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the shooting.

Unidentified assailants on Thursday shot dead a member of the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, in the flashpoint region that borders neighboring Serbia.

According to EULEX, two of its vehicles came under fire at 7:30 am local time near the town of Zvecan in northern Kosovo, which is populated predominantly by ethnic Serbs.

"We admitted around 8:15 am a member of EULEX shot with two bullets," Milan Ivanovic, head of the Kosovska Mitrovica hospital, told the AFP news agency.

The EULEX vehicles were taking part in a routine rotation of units at one of the two main border crossings with Serbia.

"EULEX condemns in the strongest terms possible this act of cowardly violence against its staff members," the mission said in a press release, urging witnesses to come forward.

Ethnic flashpoint

The border crossings between northern Kosovo and Serbia have been the site of clashes between NATO peacekeepers and ethnic Serbs in recent years.

In the summer of 2011, Serb protesters seized the border crossings and set up roadblocks, forcing NATO peacekeepers to deploy tear gas and forcibly remove the protesters. Since those clashes, Serbia has agreed to relinquish its de facto control over northern Kosovo in exchange for negotiations to eventually join the EU.

Kosovo, which has a majority ethnic Albanian population, formally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The former province broke away from Belgrade in 1999, when NATO launched a bombing campaign against Serbian troops amid reports of ethnic cleansing against Albanians.

But the majority Serb population in Kosovo's north has never recognized the sovereignty of the Albanian-led government in Pristina.

EULEX was launched in 2008 just months after Pristina unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. It is mandated to oversee the rule of law in Kosovo and tackle high-profile cases that are seen as otherwise sensitive for the local judiciary.

slk/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)