Serbia: thousands protest removal of Presevo monument

21 January, 16:14

(ANSAmed) - BELGRADE, JANUARY 21 - Several thousand people have taken to the streets of Presevo in southern Serbia (along the border with Kosovo, with mostly Albanian inhabitants) today to protest the police's removal of a monument commemorating ethnic Albanian guerrilla separatists killed in clashes with Serbian forces in 2000-2001. Belgrade had ruled that the monument in central Presevo was illegal, as it exalted the members of what Serbian authorities hold to be a terrorist organisation. The protest lasted about an hour and was staged in the square facing onto the town hall, where the monument had been located. It came to an end around 1 PM without incident. During the demonstration, a document was read in Albanian which strongly condemned yesterday's intervention by police in anti-riot gear and their removal of the monument with the names of the fallen guerrilla fighters.

The statement had been drawn up by the leaders of the six local Albanian parties. Protestors held aloft placards with such slogans as ''Europe, open your eyes'', ''Stop discrimination'' and ''Stop Albanophobia''. A banner was hung on the facade of a nearby building with a list (also in Albanian) of ten demands for local politicians, criticised for not having stood up sufficiently for the positions of the Albanian population and for having let them down. Flowers were laid at the spot where until yesterday the monument had stood in honour of the Liberation Army fighters of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja (OVPMB) killed in armed clashes about ten years ago. And while no incidents occurred in Presevo, in Gjakova a crowd of furious Kosovars tried to attack a Serbian Orthodox church. Local police were able to hold them off with the help of KFOR troops and Italian Carabinieri. Another anti-Serb incident took place in the village Kllokot, where 27 tombs of Serbs were either entirely destroyed or damaged. Meanwhile, two Molotov cocktails have been thrown at the town hall in the northern part (Serbian) of Kosovska Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo. No substantial damage was reported. Kosovska Mitrovica, the largest town in northern Kosovo with a Serb-majority population, is divided into two by the Ibar river, with an Albanian part in the south and a Serb one in the north.

For this reason the city is the clearest symbol of the sharp ethnic divide in Kosovo. (ANSAmed).

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