NATO-led peacekeepers on Monday dispersed Serb protesters who again clashed with police in northern Kosovo to demand the removal of recently elected Albanian mayors, as ethnic tensions flared in the Balkan nation, France 24 reports.
Kosovo's Serbs had boycotted last month's elections in the northern towns, which allowed ethnic Albanians to take control of local councils despite a minuscule turnout of under 3.5 percent of voters.
Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti officially installed the mayors last week, defying calls to ease the tensions by the European Union and the United States, which have both championed the territory's 2008 independence from Serbia.
Early Monday, groups of Serbs gathered in front of the municipal building in the Serb-majority town of Zvecan and tried to force their way into the building.
Many Serbs are demanding the withdrawal of Kosovo police forces -- whose presence in northern Kosovo has long sparked resistance -- as well as the ethnic Albanian mayors they do not consider their true representatives.
Police responded with tear gas and pushed them back, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
NATO-led peacekeepers in the KFOR mission at first tried to separate protesters from the police, but later started to disperse the crowd using shields and batons, an AFP journalist saw.
Several protesters replied by hurling rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers, but were quickly repelled a few hundred meters away from the Zvecan municipal building.
Kosovo police said "organised" demonstrators also threw tear gas in northern Kosovo towns, home to many ethnic Serbs who reject Kosovo's independence from Serbia, which it proclaimed in 2008.
"The protesters, using violence and throwing tear gas, tried to cross the security cordons and make a forced entry into the municipality facility," Kosovo police said in a statement.
"Police were forced to use legal means, such as (pepper) spray, to stop the protesters and bring the situation under control."
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and Belgrade and its key allies Russia and China have refused to recognise it, effectively preventing Kosovo from having a seat at the United Nations.
Serbs in Kosovo remained largely loyal to Belgrade, especially in the north, where they make up a majority and reject every move by Pristina to consolidate its control over the region.