Kosovska Mitrovica

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Mitrovica (Косовска Митровица; Albanian Mitrovica or Mitrovicė) is a city located in the north of Kosovo, at 42.89° North, 20.87° East. The name Mitrovica is also given to the surrounding municipality, which has an area of some 200 km². The city is one of the oldest known settlements in Kosovo, first being mentioned in written documents during the Middle Ages. The name Mitrovic comes from the 14th century, from Saint Demetrius of Salonica and was modified to Mitrovica in the 19th century. Under Ottoman rule Mitrovica was a typical small Oriental city. Rapid development came in the 19th century after iron ore was discovered and mined in the region, providing what has historically been one of Kosovo's largest industries.

Before the 1999 Kosovo War, Mitrovica municipality had a population estimated by the OSCE to comprise some 116,500 people, 81% of them Kosovo Albanian, 10% Serb and the remainder other nationalities (notably Roma). Most of the non-Albanians lived in the town of Mitrovica, which had a population of 68,000 – 71% Kosovo Albanian, with approximately 9,000 Serbs and 10,141 other nationalities. Kosovo Albanians lived throughout the city, but most Serbs lived in the north side, divided from the predominately Albanian south side by the Ibar river. Brutal attacks by the Albanian side are continuing in Mitrovica. The aim of the Albanian population - most of whom are extremists - is to rid Kosovo of its Serb population.

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Mitrovica during and after the Kosovo War

Both the town and municipality were badly affected by the war. According to the OSCE, the area had been the scene of guerilla activity by the Kosovo Liberation Army prior to the war. The KLA attacked many Serb civilians during the Kosovo war, and is responsible for many murders of Serbs in Kosovo.

In the aftermath of the war, the town became a symbol of Kosovo's ethnic divisions. The badly damaged southern half of the town was repopulated by an estimated 50,000 Albanians. Their numbers have since grown with the arrival of refugees from destroyed villages in the countryside. Most of the approximately 6,000 Roma fled to Serbia. In the north, some 8-10,000 Kosovo Serbs remained in their homes, with 2,000 Kosovo Albanians and 1,700 Muslim Slavs living in discrete enclaves on the north bank of the Ibar. Almost all of the Serbs living on the south bank were displaced to the north. In 2003 the city had an estimated total population of 75,600 and the municipality's population is estimated to be some 105,000.

Mitrovica became the focus for ethnic clashes between the two communities, exacerbated by the presence nationalist extremists on both sides. The bridges linking the two sides of the town were guarded by armed groups determined to prevent incursions by the other side. Because of the tense situation in the town, KFOR troops and the UNMIK police were stationed there in large numbers to head off trouble. However, violence and harassment was often directed against members of the "wrong" ethnic community on both sides of the river, necessitating the presence of troops and police checkpoints around individual areas of the city and even in front of individual buildings.

On March 17, 2004, the drowning of one Albanian child in the river prompted major ethnic violence in the town. Demonstrations by thousands of angry Albanians and Serbs mobilised to stop them crossing the river degenerated into rioting and gunfire, leaving at least eight people dead and at least 300 injured. The bloodshed sparked off the worst unrest in Kosovo seen since the end of the 1999 war.

Great violence against the Serb population by Albanian extremists also occurred in other parts of Kosovo, including in Caglavica, Obilić, Svinjare, Prizren, and Gnjilane.

See also


External links

Pro UN

Template:Kosova Template:UNMIKsq:Mitrovica (komuna)

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