Six wounded in shoot-out on Kosovo-Serbia border

Six Kosovo Albanians were wounded, one of them seriously, in a shoot-out with Serbian police on the Kosovo-Serbia border, authorities said on Monday.

"It is suspected that the exchange of fire was between several people (from the Kosovo side) who went to cut firewood and some people from the Serb side," Kosovo police said in a statement.

"Six Kosovo Albanians were wounded" in the incident late Sunday in the area of the border-crossing of Merdare, the police said, adding that the wounded were transferred to a Pristina hospital and were "in stable condition, except one person who is in a serious one."

In Belgrade, the commander of a Serbian special police unit Bratislav Dikic said his patrol unit had come under automatic weapons fire near the southern Serbian village of Borovac.

"Several unknown attackers opened fire at our patrol, who adequately responded, and these persons then fled in the direction of Kosovo," Dikic told Serbian national broadcaster RTS.

Similar shoot-outs have occasionally occurred in the forest area bordering Serbia and Kosovo, but this is the first since Belgrade and Pristina on April 19 reached an agreement to ease tensions and normalise their ties.

The incident occurred on the eve of a meeting in Brussels between Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic, aimed at discussing further steps in implementing the EU-brokered deal.

Following the April breakthrough and improvement of relations between the former foes, the European Union decided last month to start accession talks with Serbia.

The 28-member bloc also agreed to start talks on a stabilisation and association accord with Kosovo, the first step on a long path towards eventual membership.

Serbia refuses to recognise the 2008 unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo, although some 100 countries, including the United States and all but five EU member states, have done so.