Kosovo: Police use tear gas to disperse thousands in capital

SARAJEVO - Thousands of people have protested in the Kosovar capital of Pristina, calling for the resignation of Minister for Returns and Communities Aleksandar Jablanovic and the nationalization of Trepca mine company.

Twenty-one people were injured and 22 were arrested during demonstrations, police say.

The protesters from all parts of Kosovo carried Albanian flags and banners Saturday in Pristina with slogans such as "Get out Jablanovic" and "Trepca is ours."

Then protesters marching in front of a government building threw stones and broke its windows. Only after over half an hour the police began to break up demonstrators by using tear gas.

On behalf of the demonstrators, the leader of the so-called "Self-determination" movement that helped organize the rally, Albin Kurti, set a deadline of 48 hours to replace Minister Jablanovic.

"Until Monday, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa has a deadline to replace the Minister Jablanovic. Otherwise, we will re-organize the protests Tuesday at the same place," said Kurti.

Kurti stressed that Trepca should belong to the state of Kosovo, calling on the government to introduce legislation on the company.

The Serbian government, which refused to recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, insists the majority ownership of the mine complex belongs to the Development Fund of the Republic of Serbia.

Earlier in January, Kosovo adopted amendments to its existing laws on public enterprises -- which technically allowed it to fully nationalize Trepca -- but backtracked after Serbia reacted furiously to the plan and alarmed Western diplomats.

Kosovo Police Department spokesman Baki Kelani announced that 19 police officers and two people were injured due to activists throwing stones towards the government building.

He also added that 22 people were detained during the protest.

"Protesters threw stones towards the government building for about half an hour. Then police intervened with tear gas. During the protest RTK2 television channel’s reporter Aleksandra Jovanovic and cameraman Bojan Kosanin were attacked," said Kelani.

According to information received from police, Saturday’s protest gathered about 7 thousand people.

Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga condemned the protesters damaging the public buildings and requested the condemnation of the vandalism from the organizers of the protests.

Jahjaga urged people to hold the next protest in political and social maturity and called for the protection of public goods and safety.

In early January, Minister Jablanovic called Kosovars "savages" who prevented Serbs from entering a church in Cakovice in the west of the country.

Although Jablanovic later apologized to the public, he was condemned all across the country, many calling for his resignation.

On the other hand, about 700 miners 750 meters underground refused Wednesday to return to the surface at the end of their shift, saying they want the Kosovo Assembly to take over the company Trepca, which owns the zinc and silver mines, as soon as possible.

Miners ended their strike at a near-bankrupt mine after the Prime Minister Isa Mustafa urged them to stop.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency