Serb children hurt by blast in flashpoint Kosovo town

MITROVICA, Kosovo, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Two Serb children were wounded on Monday when what appeared to be a hand grenade was thrown at their home in the ethnically divided flashpoint town of Mitrovica.

The children, a boy aged three and a girl aged nine, were hit by shrapnel in the head and back, doctors at a Mitrovica hospital said.

The attack followed at least two explosions on the Serb side of the town on Sunday, apparently targeting Serbs working for the Kosovo authorities. No one was hurt in those blasts.

Ethnic violence in Kosovo appeared to have fallen in the five years since the mostly Albanian territory seceded from Serbia in 2008. Tensions have been rising again as the European Union steers the two through talks aimed at normalising ties.

Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as a state but is under pressure from the EU to loosen its grip on a northern, Serb-populated pocket of its former province if the bloc is to move ahead with Belgrade's bid to join it.

Monday's blast occurred in an area of Mitrovica known as Bosnjacka Mahala, one of the last ethnically-mixed areas of the north Kosovo town on the River Ibar. Kosovo police said it appeared to have been caused by a hand grenade.

"We ask the international community to urgently, tonight, take a stand on what has happened and say that it will take responsibility for establishing the truth and punishing the perpetrators," the Serbian government's chief official for Kosovo, Aleksandar Vulin, told the Tanjug state news agency.

NATO has about 6,000 peacekeepers in Kosovo, and the EU operates a police and justice mission known as EULEX.

Mitrovica was frequently the scene of confrontation between Kosovo's Serbs and Albanians in the years after NATO bombs wrested control of the then province from Belgrade in 1999 to halt a Serbian counter-insurgency campaign.

The country of 1.7 million people, 90 percent of them Albanians, has since been recognised by more than 90 countries, including the United States and 22 of the EU's 27 members. (Reporting by Branislav Krstic in Mitrovica and Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Angus MacSwan)