PRISTINA, Serbia, June 5, 2006 (AFP) -
A "state of emergency" was proclaimed in Serb enclaves in northern Kosovo on Monday as the embattled minority cut relations with the UN mission (UNMIK) over a wave of ethnic violence.
"The state of emergency is proclaimed from today on the territory of four municipalities in northern Kosovo," said Dragisa Milovic, an ethnic-Serb official in the town of Zvecan.
"All contacts with Kosovo institutions, in particular with UNMIK, are now being cut off, until those who have committed numerous crimes against the Serbs are caught."
Several thousand Serbs gathered in Zvecan to protest the violence, allegedly committed by extremists from Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority despite the presence of NATO peacekeepers throughout the province.
In a series of attacks against Serbs in the past 10 days, one man has been killed and two have been seriously injured.
But UN police commissioner Kai Vittrup said the latest "incidents involving Kosovo Serb victims do not appear to be ethnically motivated crimes".
"At the moment, we are putting in place additional security procedures to ensure the safety of all Kosovo citizens," Vittrup said in Pristina, the capital of the southern Serbian province which is under UN oversight.
UNMIK officials rarely describe violent attacks against Serbs as ethnically motivated crimes, citing a lack of evidence to determine a motive.
Since the end of Kosovo's 1998-1999 conflict, some 200,000 Serbs have fled the province fearing reprisals by ethnic Albanian extremists, while the remaining roughly 100,000 live in constant fear for their lives and property.
The province has been under UN and NATO control since the north Atlantic military alliance bombed Serbia in 1999 to force Serbian troops to end a brutal crackdown against armed Kosovo Albanian separatists.
Ethnic Albanians make up about 90 percent of Kosovo's population of some two million.
Belgrade and Kosovo Serb leaders have complained for years that the NATO and UN missions have failed to ensure security for non-Albanians, pointing to constant small-scale attacks and a major anti-Serb rampage in 2004.
Since February, Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials have been engaged in UN-sponsored talks over the future status of the province, with the ethnic Albanians demanding full independence from Belgrade.
Belgrade says it could accept a large degree of autonomy for the province but insists that Kosovo is an inalienable part of Serbian territory, culture and religion.