Thousands of local Serbs in Kosovo protest over security concerns in country -

2 April,

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Thousands of local Serbs in Kosovo protest over security concerns in country

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Thousands of local Serbs on Sunday gathered in southern Kosovo to express their security concerns after two Serbs on Friday were shot and wounded.

According to Anadolu Agency, Serbs from central Kosovo, as well as from other parts of the country, together with political leaders, gathered in the Strpce town.

A Serbian boy and a young man were shot and wounded on Friday in southern Kosovo by Albanian extremists on Orthodox Christmas Eve.

The crowd carried banners that read: "Europe, West, what are our children to blame for, stop violence against Serbs and (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic, protect the Serbs and peace."

Head of the Strpce municipality Dalibor Jevtic said a request was made to NATO-led security force KFOR and the Kosovo police to increase their presence and ensure safety for all citizens.

"Citizens are rightfully upset. Our children are not safe and they are obliged to ensure that safety," Jevtic told local media, noting that the crowd sends a message of peace but is also full of courage.

"We are sending a message that we will not be scared or chased away by those who shoot and those who try in different ways to expel us. We are sending a message of peace, that we want to be our own people. That is the message that we are sending with every protest. Peace is the main message, it is clear who wants the opposite" said Jevtic.

Several Kosovo police units and NATO peacekeepers, known as the Kosovo Force, or KFOR patrols, were present around the town.

The tension between Kosovo and Serbia recently escalated after a series of events in the region.

Over Friday's incident, the Serbian government's office for Kosovo demanded urgent and decisive action from the international community.

The Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7 for three days under the Gregorian calendar. Orthodox Christian Serbs in Kosovo gathered in front of local churches on Christmas Eve to light yule logs before a midnight service.

Kosovar police later announced that a 33-year-old man who is a member of the Kosovo Security Forces was detained as a suspect in the attack.

Kosovo, predominantly inhabited by Albanians, broke away from Serbia in 1999 and declared independence in 2008. But Serbia has not recognized the move and sees its former province as part of its territory.

Tensions have been simmering between the two Balkan countries, though they appeared to ease somewhat following the removal of barricades blocking the main border crossing between them.

Earlier, there had been a row about license plates, with the government in Pristina demanding ethnic Serbs surrender Serbian-issued vehicle license plates to replace them with plates issued by Kosovo.

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