Kosovska Mitrovica, 15 February 2008 – Kosovo police late Thursday reported an explosion behind a building housing the advance team for the European Union mission at the flashpoint town of Kosovska Mitrovica.”There are no injured,” Besim Hoti, the police spokesman in the town, told AFP by phone. Two windows of a nearby house had been smashed in the blast, he added.

The building is in the northern, Serbian part of the town, which is divided between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. Hoti said investigation for possible reasons behind the blast was underway.

An AFP correspondent in the town noted that the building housing the preparatory team for the EU mission had not suffered any damage.

The ethnically divided town, where 20,000 Serbs live in the north and 80,000 Albanians in the south, symbolises the ethnic tensions of Kosovo, the Serbian province that is expected to declare independence as early as Sunday.

Many feared this flashpoint town could be a scene of tensions and violence between the two rival communities.

The blast came just days ahead of the expected declaration of independence of ethnic-Albanian majority province, a move strongly opposed by Serbia, and Serb minority living in Kosovo.

Tensions over the bitterly contested issue, between Serbia and Russia on one side and the United States and many western European countries on the other, have been rising in recent days.

Serbia and Russia bluntly told the UN Security Council Thursday that the expected unilateral declaration of independence from Belgrade by Kosovo’s Albanian majority was unacceptable and a violation of international law.

Serbia said it would “annul” Kosovo’s decision to declare independence, deeming it “null and void.”

Kosovo, technically still a province of Serbia, has been run by the UN and NATO since the end of a 1998-1999 conflict that ended after a NATO bombing campaign to stop a Serbian crackdown on the Albanian majority.

Source: AFP