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Kosovo says Serbian forces detained three of its police

June 14, 2023

Police in Kosovo say three border officers are believed to have been detained by Serbian special units.

Kosovo police officers guard in a street
Kosovo police officers guard a street in the northern Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided MitrovicaImage: Bojan Slavkovic/AP Photo/picture alliance

Kosovo officials on Wednesday said three police officers had been detained by Serbia's forces in the volatile northern region, near the border with Serbia.

The detentions could further inflame tensions in the mainly Serb northern region of Kosovo, where violence has flared in recent weeks.

What we know so far

Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said that Serbian forces had crossed the border and seized three officers from a post well within Kosovo.

"While order and law are being implemented in our country, criminal Serbia has entered the territory of Kosovo and kidnapped 3 police officers of the Republic of Kosovo, in violation of any agreement and against any principle of international norms," Svecla said.

"Undoubtedly, our police officers have been deeply stationed within the territory of the Republic of Kosovo, at a static checkpoint, performing their regular duties."

Kosovo: Why is tension flaring up again?

The Serbian news agency BETA quoted Kosovo police saying the men had been operating in the municipality of Leposavic, on the border with Serbia.

Before disappearing, they had reported that they noticed masked and armed persons nearby.

Serbian officials later said the Kosovo police officers were armed with automatic weapons and full military gear. It said they had GPS devices, maps, and other equipment.

"The attempt of the so-called Kosovo police to invade the territory of central Serbia was successfully prevented, which by all parameters is a terrorist act," a statement to Serbian state broadcaster RTS said.  

Background of simmering unrest

The events come after three police officers in Kosovo were injured while during the arrest of an alleged organizer of Serb protests that turned violent.

Svecla said one of those arrested was a leading figure in Civil Protection, an organization operating in Serb-majority areas, which Kosovo's government accuses of criminal activity that "for years has terrorized our citizens."

In May, ethnic Serbs fought Kosovo police and members of a NATO peacekeeping mission in the northern city of Zvecan. Thirty soldiers and over 50 Serbs were injured.

NATO has kept a peacekeeping force in Kosovo since a war between Serbia and Kosovar separatists ended in 1999. The alliance deployed hundreds more soldiers to Kosovo after the May unrest.

rc/jcg (AFP, Reuters)