February 19, 2008
KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Kosovo — Thousands of Serbs chanting ‘‘Kosovo is Serbia’’ marched Tuesday to a bridge dividing them from ethnic Albanians while others torched U.N. border checkpoints and cars to protest Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
NATO troops later closed down the roads leading to the checkpoints, cutting off the only link between northern Kosovo and Serbia, said Besim Hoti, a U.N. spokesman. The move appeared to be due to fears that the reduction of U.N. control of the border could allow Serbian militants to return to fight in Kosovo, a land
Serb nationalists consider the cradle of their state and religion. Smoke billowed from two checkpoints separating Kosovo from Serbia and flames engulfed several U.N. vehicles set ablaze in protest against Kosovo’s weekend proclamation of independence and anger over international recognition of the new nation.
For two days, Kosovo’s Serbs have shown their determination to shun the declaration by destroying U.N. and NATO property, setting off small bombs and staging noisy rallies through the Serb stronghold of Kosovska Mitrovica.
The attacks on U.N. border crossings showed the protesters’ willingness to use violence to hold onto Kosovo — and could clear the way for Serbian militants to return to fight in Kosovo, a land Serb nationalists consider the cradle of their state and religion.