Storming of embassy in Serbia sparks US outrage

Updated on Feb 22, 2008 08:50 AM IST
The rioters enraged by Kosovo's secession storm the US embassy in Belgrade and set it on fire, leaving one person dead and drawing swift condemnation from Washington.
HT Image
HT Image
Reuters | By, Belgrade

Serb rioters enraged by Kosovo's secession stormed the US embassy in Belgrade and set it on fire, leaving one person dead and drawing swift condemnation from Washington and the UN Security Council.

The US State Department said the lack of protection for its mission, riot police were nowhere to be seen when the attack began on Thursday, was intolerable and demanded the Security Council respond.

"The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest terms the mob attacks against embassies in Belgrade, which have resulted in damage to embassy premises and have endangered diplomatic personnel," the Security Council said in a unanimous statement.

Embarrassed, Serbia said it regretted what it called acts of isolated vandals who did not represent a nation which, while bitter at Kosovo's declaration of independence on Sunday, did not want further violence.

"The acts that were committed are absolutely unacceptable, absolutely regrettable," Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told Reuters in an interview. "They hurt Serbia's image abroad."

Germany, Croatia and Britain also said their missions were vandalised. Local media added Bosnia's and Turkey's to the list.

Some 200,000 people attended the state-backed rally. Jeremic said police were overwhelmed by what was Serbia's biggest march since protesters stormed the old Yugoslav parliament building in 2000 to oust nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic.

But just a few score rioters, many wearing balaclavas, attacked the US embassy for the second time in a week, forcing their way in while police were nowhere to be seen.

One man climbed up and ripped the Stars and Stripes off its pole. Other people jumped up and down on the balcony, holding up a Serbian flag as the crowd below of about 1,000 people cheered them on, shouting "Serbia, Serbia".

Smoke billowed out of the embassy. Papers and chairs were thrown out of the windows, with doors wedged in the window frames and burning. American officials said only security personnel were at the embassy at the time, in a different area.

Condemnation

Riot police arrived later and fired teargas to disperse the crowds. A charred body was later found inside, probably of a protester; the embassy said its US staff were accounted for and Marines protecting it had not engaged in any fighting.

Hospital officials said around 150 people were injured in street clashes, including 30 police and some journalists.

At the United Nations, the statement by the 15-nation council recalled the inviolability of diplomatic missions but welcomed steps by Serbian authorities to restore order.

The council has been a battleground over Kosovo, with Russia refusing to accept Western moves to legitimise the mainly Albanian region's independence after nine years as a UN ward.

Serbia considers Kosovo its historic heartland and waged a diplomatic campaign against its secession on Sunday.

"As long as we live, Kosovo is Serbia," Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had told the state rally, where Serbs of all ages listened to speeches and melancholic patriotic songs about Kosovo, seen as the birthplace of a proud medieval kingdom.

Washington said Kostunica later pledged there would be no repeat of the attacks, but an analyst said tension would remain.

"Additional acts of what is effectively political vandalism can be expected," said Jon Levy of the Europe and Eurasia think tank.

The Belgrade rioters also vandalised shops and banks, especially Western ones, leaving a trail of smashed glass and debris. There was some looting.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • British author Salman Rushdie.

    Salman Rushdie had multiple stab wounds, says doctor who helped him

    Salman Rushdie suffered multiple stab wounds, including one to the right side of his neck, and was lying in a pool of blood under his body after he was attacked at an event here on Friday, according to a doctor who helped the Mumbai-born controversial author following the brutal assault. Rushdie was attacked and stabbed in the neck on Friday while onstage in Chautauqua in Western New York, New York Police said.

  • Representational image

    Montenegro mass shooting leaves 12 dead, 6 injured

    Twelve people including a gunman were killed in a mass shooting in Montenegro on Friday, according to local media reports, while another six were injured. Police at the scene in the western Montenegrin city of Cetinje declined to comment on the incident. The media reports said a man from Cetinje had opened fire at random in his neighbourhood after a family dispute, killing 11 people and injuring six others.

  • FILE PHOTO: The Mumbai-born novelist was speaking at an event at the Chautauqua Institution when the suspect ran up onto the stage and attacked Mr Rushdie and an interviewer.

    Terrible day for authors everywhere, say Salman Rushdie’s peers after NY attack

    Moments after the 75-year-old Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie was attacked on a stage in New York, several celebrated authors took to Twitter to express their concern. Stephen King, the author of several horror books, including 'It' and 'The Shining', took to Twitter and wrote 'I hope Salman Rushdie is okay.' The US senator of New York Chuck Schumer called the incident a 'shocking and appalling attack on freedom of speech and thought.'

  • Videograb from aTwitter user showing Salman Rushdie being loaded onto a medical evacuation helicopter at Chautauqua, New York. 

    Salman Rushdie is alive and airlifted to safety, says New York governor

    British author Salman Rushdie, who was attacked and stabbed in the neck at a literary event on Friday in western New York state, is alive and has been airlifted to safety, said New York's governor Kathy Hochul. Rushdie, whose writings made him the target of Iranian death threats, was taken by helicopter to a local hospital. Social media footage showed people rushing to Rushdie's aid and administrating emergency medical care.

  • Author Salman Rushdie, behind screen left, is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture in New York.

    Author Salman Rushdie attacked at New York event: Top points to know

    Mumbai-born author Salman Rushdie was attacked on a stage on Friday, minutes before he was set to give a lecture during an event in New York, United States. According to the latest information being shared by multiple news agencies, a man stormed the stage as the Mumbai-born author was being introduced by the anchor of the event. He then allegedly "punched and stabbed" Rushdie. His identity has not yet been released.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, August 13, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now