Wednesday, March 17, 2004

All Hell Breaks Loose - A Dark Day for Kosovo

I was able to go home last night but when entering Gracanica, I was told that if I lived past the police station, I would not be allowed to enter.  When I told them that I lived before the station, they responded that it was okay but if I drove past the station, it was my responsibility!  This morning, the roadblocks were still in place but I was able to come into Pristina without any trouble.

Last night, three Albanian children drowned near the flash-point town of Mitrovica.  Mitrovica has the largest divided ethnic population (the Albanians and Serbians separated by a river.)  Newspapers reported that the brother of one of the children said that they were being chased by a group of Serbians and jumped into the river to escape. 

This morning, all hell broke loose in Kosovo.  The Albanians gathered in Mitrovica to protest about the children and things turned sour.  Riot police were called in and fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.  Two UN police vehicles were set on fire and the officers pelted with stones. 
In Cagalavica, it is reported that the Serbs started a street battle with KFOR soldiers and several were killed, many were injured.  We haven't seen any reports about this yet but news has been slow coming in.  It was also rumored that Albanians are infiltrating the Serbian enclaves through the farm fields and starting fights with the Serbs.

Around 5pm, a group of several hundred Albanians gathered outside Mission HQ chanting UCK and booing. 

The Prime Minister is calling on NATO and the UN to calm the situation and to figure out what went wrong later.  Full travel restrictions have been put in place outside the fact, I am not allowed to go home this evening and will have to stay in Pristina.  We also have been told that once we go home, we are not allowed to go out...and we cannot take our vehicles home but must take UN shuttle buses.