A NATO top commander said on Tuesday the alliance equipped its peacekeeping force in Kosovo with weapons of “combat power” following a recent shootout between masked Serb gunmen and Kosovo police that left four people dead and sent tensions soaring in the region – Associated Press reports.
Admiral Stuart B. Munsch of the Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy said that a battalion of some 200 troops from the United Kingdom and 100 others from Romania “is bringing heavier armament in order to have combat power to” the NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, but didn’t elaborate further – Associated Press writes.
The KFOR peacekeepers — made up of around 4,500 troops from 27 nations — have been in Kosovo since June 1999, basically with light armament and vehicles.
On September 24, around 30 Serb gunmen killed a Kosovar police officer and then set up barricades in northern Kosovo before launching an hours-long gun battle with Kosovo police. Three gunmen were killed.
NATO had first increased its troops with some 600 Turkish ones after the May 29 clashes with ethnic Serbs.
Munsch said the alliance was ready to add more troops and armaments to preserve peace.
“NATO is maintaining further forces equipped with even heavier armament capable of further combat power on a high state of readiness that is deployable should the nations of NATO decide to do so,” he said.
Outgoing KFOR commander Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia said KFOR fully supported the EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade for the normalization of their ties.
“The situation remains volatile and can easily escalate. Only a political solution can bring a lasting peace and stability in the area,” he said.
Photo credits: BETA/Saša Đorđević
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