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NATO troops, Serbs wounded in Kosovo border clashes

(Xinhua)

10:38, September 28, 2011

PRISTINA, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Four NATO soldiers and seven Serb protesters were wounded on Tuesday in clashes at the disputed Kosovo northern border crossing with Serbia known as Gate 1 (Jarinje).

"Four soldiers were injured in explosions of pipe bombs. Three have minor injuries, while the fourth who has serious injuries will be evacuated," said NATO spokesman Kai Gudenoge.

According to him, NATO-led troops in Kosovo (KFOR) were forced to fire rubber bullets and tear gas in self-defense to Serb protesters after being attacked at the border crossing.

Hospital officials in northern Kosovo said seven Serb protesters were wounded from gunfire which erupted in the afternoon in Jarinje.

Head of Mitrovica hospital Milan Jakovljevic said the seven injured were brought there for medical treatment.

"We can't say if anyone has life threatening injures at this moment, since we are assessing their current extent of the injuries," said Jakovljevic.

Minor clashes in the disputed crossing Gate 1 started in the morning after local Serbs tried to set up a new barricade in the main road, hours after KFOR troops removed one.

Serb protesters threw stones to soldiers, drawing tear gas response from KFOR. Five Serbs were arrested initially and released later on.

Local Serbs were furious after KFOR blocked an alternative crossing that Serbs established for traveling from Kosovo to Serbian territory.

They strongly oppose Pristina's authorities and fiercely reject Kosovo's custom and police officers deployed at two crossings with Serbia, a move that has prompted Serbs to block main roads close to the crossing points.

Kosovo's ruling authority said it was in coordination with KFOR and EULEX (EU Rule of Law mission) with the aim to unblock barricaded roads in the north.

Local media in Serb-dominated northern Mitrovica say two EULEX vehicles are set on fire in the town.

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