NATO announced Tuesday it will deploy additional forces to Kosovo in response to fighting with protesting local Serbs and injuries to 30 soldiers.
''NATO has directed the deployment of the Operational Reserve Forces (ORF) for the Western Balkans, which was on a seven-day readiness-to-deploy status,'' according to a statement from the NATO Joint Forces Command Naples.
The alliance said the deployment is a measure to ensure that the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) has the capabilities it needs to maintain security.
"I want to commend KFOR for taking swift, restrained, and professional action to intervene to stop the unrest and to save lives. The violence must stop, and all sides must stop taking action to undermine the peace in any and all communities of Kosovo,'' said Admiral Stuart B. Munsch, commander Allied Joint Force Command.
Naples (JFC Naples).
The move came after the number of NATO peacekeeping forces injured in clashes with protesting Serbs in Kosovo rose to 30.
Eleven Italian and 19 Hungarian soldiers with KFOR sustained multiple injuries, including fractures and burns from improvised explosive incendiary devices.
Three Hungarian soldiers were also wounded by firearms, but their injuries are not life-threatening, said a statement.
The injured personnel are currently under observation at a health facility.
Earlier reports suggested 25 soldiers were injured.
Tensions have gripped Kosovo with protesters and security forces clashing in the northern Serb-dominated municipalities over the election of ethnic Albanian mayors. Albanians are the largest ethnic group in Kosovo, followed by Serbs, especially in the north, near the border with Serbia.
Meanwhile, more than 53 civilians were injured from shock bombs and tear gas, according to hospital sources.
One person underwent surgery and is in intensive care, said Zlatan Elek, director of the Clinical Hospital Center in Mitrovica, a Serb-dominated municipality which was saw clashes.
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