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11 hurt during Kosovo action on organized crime, officials say

11 people hurt during Kosovo police action, officials say

BELGRADE, Serbia — Kosovo police say five police officers and six civilians were injured during an operation against organized crime and corruption in the Serb-dominated north that primarily targeted other police officers.

Police chief Rashit Qalaj said that 19 police officers and a number of other people were arrested during Tuesday’s operation that involved special police forces. He said information about evidence that was seized would be released later.

Qalaj said two of the officers sent to carry out the arrests were injured during “armed resistance” by ethnic Serbs in northern Zubin Potok commune, while others were hurt while clearing the road of makeshift barricades.

The official said a U.N. vehicle with two staff members, a local and a Russian, was found while clearing a barricade.

“The reason we arrested them was participation at the barricades,” Qalaj said.

The United Nations Mission in Kosovo said it deplored the detention and asked for their release.

The mission said in a statement Tuesday the two U.N. staff members were injured the operation, which triggered Serb anger and sent regional tensions soaring.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said that one of the U.N. employees is Russian and condemned Kosovo for stoking tensions with neighboring Serbia. The nationality of the other employee was not immediately known.

UNMIK Ambassador Zahir Tanin called for their immediate release, adding “any harm to United Nations staff will be met with the highest degree of diplomatic and international legal responses.”

UNMIK was deployed in Kosovo in 1999 after NATO intervened to stop a bloody Serb crackdown on Kosovo Albanian separatists. It has a reduced mission after Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

Russia, a Serbian ally, does not recognize Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Belgrade in 2008.

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