By Fatos Bytyci
PRISTINA (Reuters) - Riot police and protesters fought running battles in the Kosovo capital Pristina on Tuesday as anti-government protests erupted into the worst unrest since the former Serbian province seceded in 2008.
A Reuters reporter saw masked police officers firing tear gas and water cannon, trying to disperse about 2,000 protesters who had taken to the streets in rallies organized by opposition political parties.
Ambulances attended to dozens of injured people as police pursued protesters into side streets around central Pristina.
It was the second bout of unrest since Saturday, set off by popular anger over a government climbdown over the fate of a huge mining complex claimed by Serbia.
The protesters are also clamoring for the dismissal of an ethnic Serb minister in the mainly Kosovo Albanian government after he branded as "savages" a group of Albanians who lost relatives in Kosovo's 1998-99 war and had protested against ethnic Serb pilgrims marking Orthodox Christmas in January.
Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1999 with the help of NATO air strikes to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces waging a counter-insurgency war.
The territory of 1.8 million people, 90 percent of them ethnic Albanians, declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by more than 100 countries.
(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Janet Lawrence)