Four Police Officers Wounded in Anti-Smuggling Operation in Mitrovica

Four Kosovo police officers have been wounded in the northern part of Mitrovica in Kosovo during an anti-smuggling operation conducted this morning, according to Kosovo-based Gazeta Express. Dozens of Kosovo citizens of different ethnicities were arrested in several cities throughout the country, as well as border and regular police officers of Albanian, Serbian and Bosnian ethnicity, who are suspected of smuggling activities, organized crime, corruption and official misconduct.

The police faced armed resistance in the northern part of Mitrovica, which is populated by a Serbian majority. Municipal authorities raised the alarm by turning on laud sirens this morning when the operation started. Locals erected barriers and opened fire against the police, according to Kosovo Police.

The media is Serbia reported that the operation was being conducted only in Mitrovica and in relation to the killing of Kosovo police officer Enver Zymberi in 2011 and Serbian politician Oliver Ivanovic in 2018. The Kosovo Police issued a separate press release denying such information. It further informed the public that the operation was conducted following the Kosovo prosecution investigations against smuggling, corruption and organized crime.

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj confirmed this, saying “This operation is against organized crime and it also targets police and customs officers.” Haradinaj added that operations were ongoing throughout all Kosovo, and that organized crime and smuggling has no ethnicity.

Both Prime Minister Haradinaj and President Hashim Thaçi called on Kosovo citizens of Serbian ethnicity to maintain their calm and support authorities in their struggle against criminal activities.

Aljazeera reported that President Aleksandar Vucic has ordered a full state of alert for Serbian troops, and that movements of troops were noticed in the area. Vucic is expected to speak in parliament today about the situation.

The NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) stated that it is monitoring the situation and was ready to intervene if necessary. It further added that this was a police operation in relation to an investigation on corruption. KFOR called for calm and restraint.