European Union special police in Kosovo have launched an operation in the Serb-run north linked to the recent outbreak of violence that left one Kosovo policeman dead, the spokesman for the 3,000-strong rule of law mission said Wednesday.
Nicholas Hawton said the operation is "related to a criminal investigation" into the murder of Kosovo policeman Enver Zymberi in July.
"The operation is ongoing, Hawton said. "It is aimed at reinforcing the rule of law."
He said NATO peacekeepers have deployed to support the EU police in the tense area controlled by minority Serbs that refuse to cooperate with international authorities and reject Pristina's authority.
The move comes a day after the top NATO commander in Kosovo Maj. Gen. Erhard Buehler warned of renewed tensions in the area pending arrests of local Serbs suspected of involvement in the recent violence.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Buehler said he expected "a heavy reaction" from Serb extremists as international authorities seek to indict suspects.
"I mean heavy reaction in terms of demonstrations, roadblocks denying freedom of movement for the troops, rhetoric and so on," Buehler said.
Kosovo policeman Enver Zymberi was killed during clashes that erupted after Kosovo's government tried to set up customs points in July along its border with Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo's independence.
Serb rioters then burned one of the border crossings and set up roadblocks to stop NATO peacekeepers from reaching their bases in the north.
Tensions eased after Buehler mediated a temporary deal between Pristina and Serbia to keep peacekeepers on border crossings until the two sides talk over their differences in a meeting scheduled for next month.
Pristina's attempt to control the crossings was seen as an attempt to stretch control over defiant Serbs in the area that remains Serbia's bastion against Kosovo's 2008 secession.