Gunfire broke out between NATO troops and Serbian anti-separatists in Kosovo Friday, resulting in several injuries but no fatalities.
The incident occurred as peacekeepers with NATO's Kosovo Force, or KFOR, were attempting to remove barricades along major roads set up by ethnic Serbians opposed to an independent Kosovo, which formally separated from Serbia in 2008.
The NATO peacekeepers were confronted by hundreds of Serbians at the roadblocks and pelted with stones. In response, the soldiers fired tear gas and small arms, with gunfire returning from the crowd. At least three Serbians and one NATO solider were wounded.
KFOR will not allow the situation to escalate and will use a proportional level of force necessary to maintain a safe and secure environment, Uwe Nowitzki, a NATO representative in Kosovo was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The operation to remove the roadblocks would continue as planned, Nowitski added.
Kosovo's History Of Conflict
For more than a decade, Kosovo has been embroiled in ethnic tensions between Serbians and Albanians, who comprise 92 percent of the population.
Following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1992, Serbia and several other states in the Balkans were formed. Ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo enclave in the southern portion of Serbia subsequently sought an independent state.
Tensions came to a head in 1998 with the outbreak of war in Kosovo between Albanian separatists and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's military under the direction of President Slobodan Milosevic. NATO intervened in the conflict after reports that Milosevic had ordered the massacre of Albanian civilians.
Following a U.S.-led air campaign and the deployment of NATO peacekeeping forces, hostilities ceased by mid-1999.
Kosovo then came under the interim administration of United Nations Mission in Kosovo, with the process of achieving independence taking nearly a decade. Ethnic Serbians in the northern parts of Kosovo are still opposed to the separation.