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Kosovo commandos withdraw after storming Serb border posts

Mission accomplished, says Interior Minister.

Kosovo borderEnlarge
Kosovo Serbs setup a blockade on the Leposavic-Mitrovica road as a response to the capturing of two border crossings by Kosovo police, who seek to enforce an embargo of Serbian goods, near Leposavic, on July 26, 2011. (SASA DJORDJEVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities in Kosovo said Wednesday that its commandos had withdrawn from the two northern border crossings that it stormed on Monday night, in an operation that that ramped up tensions with Serbia and led to international criticism.

A police officer was killed in clashes between the police and the local Serbian community, which does not recognize the authority of the Pristina government.

Kosovo had been looking to enforce a ban on Serb products that it declared last week in retaliation for a Serbian blockade on Kosovan exports that has been in place since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

In comments published by Reuters, Kosovo Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi told KTV channel in the capital, Pristina, that Kosovan special forces had withdrawn because they achieved their goal.

He said the crossings would be patrolled by border police and customs officers from both Kosovo's majority Albanian and minority Serb communities:

The special units have finished their mission, their mission was to return the rule of law at the border crossing 1 and 31.

The European Union and the United States on Tuesday criticized Pristina's government, saying it should have consulted its Western backers.

(GlobalPost special report: Kosovo's Mafia: How the US and allies ignore allegations of organized crime at the highest levels of a new democracy)

In an effort to ease tensions, two senior Serbian officials were to meet on Wednesday in north Kosovo, with the commander of NATO's mission there.

An unnamed source at the Serbian ministry for Kosovo told Agence-France Presse by telephone that “a solution for the crisis” would be “on the agenda”.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/110727/serbia-kosovo-border-clashes-ban