By Talha Ozturk
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - Kosovo began deploying more police units late Thursday to the north of the country as tensions rose between ethnic Serbs and the Pristina government, according to the Interior Ministry.
Local media reported that non-Serb units of the Kosovo police had started entering the northern areas of Mitrovica to ensure security in the multi-ethnic parts of the city, where Albanians and Bosnians also live.
It was announced that the situation is calm as of now and security measures were taken because non-Serbs felt threatened following a series of attacks this week.
Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said it is the duty of the Kosovo police to maintain security and order.
''In recent days, after the consecutive armed attacks on police officers and citizens in the north of the country, an increased police presence in order to provide security to all citizens has been deemed necessary,'' said Svecla.
He also urged citizens to remain calm
“We ask all citizens to keep calm and cooperate with the Kosovo Police, who are committed to order and security for all citizens without any distinction," he added.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti earlier announced that the police presence in the north of the country will be increased.
The Serbian government commissioner for Kosovo told a press conference that between 300 and 350 officers, including heavily armed special forces “in full war dress and with armored vehicles,” entered the north of Kosovo.
Petar Petkovic said this development is an attempt to invade the north of the country.
According to him, based on the Brussels Agreement, the Kosovo Police has no right to be in the north.
"We are not the ones who don't want normalization of relations. That's what Kurti is doing. Gentlemen from the West, don't be surprised by Belgrade's decisions,'' said Petkovic.
- Explosions in northern Kosovo
Ahead of early local elections on Dec. 18 in four municipalities in the north of Kosovo, explosions and sirens were heard in some cities in the north Tuesday.
Forces affiliated with the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) had increased their presence on the Iberian Bridge connecting the southern and northern sides of the city of Mitrovica.
Officials of the Kosovo Central Election Commission (KQZ) went to their offices in the north accompanied by local police but were unable to enter.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared last month when ethnic Serbs in Kosovo withdrew from all central and local institutions to protest the decision to replace car license plates issued by Serbian authorities with those from Kosovo.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with most UN member states including the US, UK, France, Germany and Türkiye recognizing it as a separate autonomous country from its neighbor.
But Serbia continues to insist that Kosovo is its territory.