U.S. Embassy Torched in Kosovo Protest

February 22, 2008 02:37 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Serbian protesters broke into the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and set fire to an office yesterday, killing one person. The embassy had been closed for the week.

30-Second Summary

Following Kosovo’s declaration of independence on Feb. 17, the Serbian government organized a rally in the capital to protest the secession of the former province. Between 250,000 and 500,000 people are estimated to have attended the demonstration.

However, hundreds of protesters broke away from the peaceful rally and took to embassy row, breaking into the U.S. Embassy compound in retaliation for Washington’s support of Kosovo’s declaration.

The mob stormed the first floor of the building and set fire to one office. The burned body of an unknown male was found by firefighters.

The embassy announced that it is evacuating all non-essential staff and their dependents, leaving only key officers and the ambassador.

The British, Turkish, Croatian and German embassies were also attacked that day.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, a staunch nationalist, condemned the violence, saying that it “directly inflicts damage to our fight.”

Professor Andrey Zagorsky, a political analyst at the Moscow State University of International Relations said, “If there are political victims of these events, it’s probably most likely to be the prime minister.”

On Friday, Kosovo was the location of protests as 5,000 ethnic Serbs marched through the city of Mitrovica, singing nationalist chants and throwing objects at UN police.

In a call for national unity, Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said, “My message to Serbs of Kosovo is to continue to be part of the institutions of Kosovo … Kosovo is a country of everybody.”

The Economist argues that maintaining peace is the key to economic stability in the Balkans, with EU accession as the eventual goal. “It is the hope of one day becoming EU members that has gradually lured the countries of the western Balkans to adopt democracy, ditch violence and start the long haul of building free-market economies.”

View a photo report by Getty Images.

Headline Links: Belgrade embassies attacked and Serbians protest in Kosovo

Background: Kosovo independence and international reactions

Reactions: Government leaders speak out

Historical Context: The Balkans War

Opinion & Analysis: The protests in perspective

Related Topics: Past developments in the former Yugoslavia


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