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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbs Protest in Kosovo

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Yugoslavia -- Thousands of Serbs rallied Tuesday to demand the release of a hard-line leader and others imprisoned after clashes with United Nations police.

The protest in the ethnically divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica came a day after 19 international police officers and an undetermined number of Serbs were hurt in the violent confrontation.

Commenting in the wake of Monday's violence, Serb community leaders said Kosovska Mitrovica Serbs rioted because UN police arrested Slavoljub Jovic-Pagi, a leader of a hard-line group known as the "bridge guards."

However, John Neil, the head of the UN police in Kosovska Mitrovica, said a violent crowd formed when UN police set up a checkpoint for a routine check of vehicles in the Serb part of the town and that some people began throwing stones at the officers.

On Tuesday, demonstrators in the industrial city divided by the Ibar River into a predominantly Serb northern part and an ethnic Albanian southern section accused UN police of unnecessarily violent tactics.

"Serbs cannot be treated like animals," said Nebojsa Jovic, a local leader.

Marko Jaksic, another Serb community leader, demanded Jovic-Pagi's urgent release along with other detained Serbs.

"If our kinsmen are not released, our protests will continue and it will spread to all [Serb enclaves] in Kosovo," Jaksic said.