WHITE CITY – Serbia has withdrawn a number of troops stationed near the border with Kosovo. The Serbs increased the numbers deployed there following firefights in northern Kosovo that killed four people
Tensions between Belgrade and Pristina have escalated since September 24, when Kosovo police near the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo confronted about 30 armed Serbs who had barricaded themselves in a Serbian Orthodox monastery. Three attackers and one police officer were killed.
The fighting sparked new international concerns about stability in Albanian-majority Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a guerrilla uprising and a 1999 NATO bombing campaign that drove out Serbian security forces.
“Serbia has deployed 8,350 troops near (the border)…with Kosovo,…and reduced their number to 4,500 currently,” military commander General Milan Mojsilovic said, as reported by Reuters.
He said the army presence in the Land Security Zone, a 5 km (3 mile) wide strip in Serbia along the Kosovo border, had “returned to normal”.
“Serbia has not officially raised the level of readiness of its 22,500-strong army,” Mojsilovic said.
Kosovo on Saturday asked Serbia to reduce the number of troops along the border. The United States on Friday said it was monitoring Serbia’s military deployment, describing it as destabilizing.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Monday that the United States had not independently verified the withdrawal, but it would be a welcome step if it were confirmed.