The Kosovo police used tear gas and flash bangs to disperse a crowd in mainly-Serb populated Mitrovica north on Wednesday during an operation against goods smugglers.
Local media reported that a crowd gathered at the bridge across the Ibar river which separates the mainly Serb from the mainly Albanian southern part of the city, adding that air raid sirens were activated. Albanian-language media said that the crowd threw stones at police vehicles and added that at least one police vehicle had been set on fire.
A doctor at the Mitrovica hospital told N1 that one person was serious injured in the clash with the police.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said in a Facebook post that the police raided several locations in Pristina, Pec and both parts of Mitrovic following investigations and under orders from prosecutors and courts. “Crime and criminal groups will not be tolerated… We will fight smuggling and prevent it,” the post said and called the public in Mitrovica north “not to fall prey to some media in Serbia that defend crime, corruption and smuggling and want to give it make it political and ethnic”.
Eyewitnesses said that they saw police special forces in full gear mainly in front of pharmacies while the Serbian state TV reported that the Kosovo police had shut down a number of shops in Mitrovica and its surroundings. It quoted eyewitnesses who said that the police were raiding warehouses, shops and pharmacies to seize goods, adding that there was no coordination with the local city police.
The Kosovo police issued a statement saying that the operation to prevent the sales of contraband goods was underway in Pec, both parts of Mitrovica and Pristina. It added that the raids were being carried out under orders from prosecutors and judges in private residences, business premises, warehouses and shops. The operation is being conducted by a number of police units and Kosovo Customs officers.
The authorities in Pristina have launched similar police operations in the past, especially when the Kosovo government imposed 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia in late 2018. The government recently imposed anti-dumping duties on some goods from Serbia.