PRISTINA, Kosovo — A NATO top commander said Tuesday the alliance equipped its peacekeeping force in Kosovo with weapons of “combat power” following a recent shootout between masked Serb gunmen and Kosovo police that left four people dead and sent tensions soaring in the region.
Adm. Stuart B. Munsch of the Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy said that a battalion of some 200 troops from the United Kingdom and 100 others from Romania “is bringing heavier armament in order to have combat power to” the NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, but didn’t elaborate further.
The KFOR peacekeepers — made up of around 4,500 troops from 27 nations — have been in Kosovo since June 1999, basically with light armament and vehicles. The 1998-1999 war between Serbia and Kosovo ended after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo. More than 10,000 people died, mostly Kosovo Albanians.
On Sept. 24, around 30 Serb gunmen killed a Kosovar police officer and then set up barricades in northern Kosovo before launching an hours-long gun battle with Kosovo police. Three gunmen were killed.
NATO had first increased its troops with some 600 Turkish ones after the May 29 clashes with ethnic Serbs.
Munsch said the alliance was ready to add more troops and armaments to preserve peace.