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Protesters battle police at Kosovo rally

January 9, 2016

A group of protesters in Pristina set fire to a government building during a rally against an EU-brokered deal with Serbia. The government critics claim the accord is threatening Kosovo's sovereignty.

Kosovo Pristina Proteste gegen die Regierung
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Vitia

At least eight police officers, two citizens and two reporters were injured during Saturday's clashes, police spokesman Baki Kelani said.

The security forces detained 24 protesters, with an estimated 10,000 people attending the rally in Kosovo's capital Pristina.

The demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and stones at the government headquarters, briefly setting a corner of it ablaze. Police forces around the building responded by firing tear gas.

An armored police car was also set alight.

Street riots after tear gas in parliament

This is the latest in a string of protests against a deal that envisions more rights for the Serbian communities in dominantly Albanian Kosovo. Many opposition leaders argue that the EU-brokered deal would increase Belgrade's influence in the former Serbian province, which declared independence in 2008.

Kosovo Pristina Proteste gegen die Regierung
Kosovo opposition protesters demanded the resignation of the governmentImage: Getty Images/AFP/D. Vitia

"We will not be governed by those who trade our sovereignty. We are seeking free elections to be organized immediately, because they no longer have the right to govern Kosovo," said Fatmir Limaj, the leader of the Initiative for Kosovo political party.

Prior to the Saturday protests, the opposition forces also disrupted several parliamentary sessions by activating tear gas in the chamber.

The nationalistic Self-Determination Movement also said they would "not allow" parliamentary work to continue until the government renounced the deal.

On Saturday, Self-Determination leader Visar Imeri accused the current government of wanting to "dismantle the Republic," adding that the authorities could not give away Kosovo territory.

Court disputing the deal

Commenting on the Saturday violence, Kosovo's president, Atifete Jahjaga, said that setting fire to official institutions was "completely unacceptable."

"I urge law enforcement to identify the individuals and groups who caused this escalation and bring them to justice," she posted on Facebook.

Kosovo's Constitutional Court put the government under additional pressure in December, when the judges found parts of a deal between Pristina and Belgrade illegal.

dj/gsw (AFP, Reuters, dpa, Beta)