The European Union has condemned a bomb blast that killed at least two people and injured nearly a dozen others in Serbia's Kosovo Province. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest there is rising tension in the region before EU-backed international negotiations between independence-seeking ethnic Albanians and Serbia, which wants to retain sovereignty over the troubled province.
Police investigators and witnesses said the blast was so powerful that it scattered chairs and glass across what is known as the Bill Clinton Boulevard in Kosovo's capital, Pristina. Part of a building collapsed and at least a dozen shops, cafes and restaurants were destroyed.
Bertrand Bonneau, a spokesman of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, told VOA news that while rescue work was underway, international peacekeepers sealed off the area, amid fears of another attack.
"We have people who are trained in de-mining and things like that," he said. "That is why KFOR was involved. Just to secure the area from any remaining bombs or things like that."
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and investigators have not ruled out that the bombing was part of a war between the Serbian province's mushrooming criminal gangs.
The European Union has expressed concerns about the blast at a time of rising tension between Kosovo's independence seeking ethnic Albanian majority, and minority Serbs who want to remain part of Serbia.
Spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy of the European Commission, the EU executive, made clear that it is crucial that the U.N. mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, take part in investigating the reasons behind the attack.
"About this tragic explosion that happened in Pristina," she said. "We deplore the loss of all human lives. And our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims and with the injured . We wish them a speedy recovery. We trust that UNMIK police will carry out the investigation into the reasons of this blast. And that the perpetrators will be brought to justice."
Kosovo has been under United Nations administration since 1999, after a NATO bombing campaign forced Serb troops to withdraw and end their bloody crackdown on ethnic Albanians.
Representatives of Serbia and ethnic Albanians, who comprise 90 percent of Kosovo's two million population, are to hold negotiations on the territory's future Friday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.