Events were held in Gracanica and Mitrovica in Kosovo to commemorate victims of ethnic unrest in 2004, when 19 people were killed and more than 900 injured in clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

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Serbs Commemorate Victims of Deadly 2004 Unrest in Kosovo

The March 17 commemoration in Gracanica. Photo: Facebook/Dr. Petar Petkovic.

The 18th anniversary of ethnically-motivated violence against Serbs in Kosovo on March 17 and 18, 2004 was marked with a religious service and commemorative event entitled ‘We have no right to forget’ in the town of Gracanica on Thursday.

The head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Petar Petkovic, describe the violence as “a terrible pogrom” and “a crime without punishment”.

“March 17 must never happen again, March 17 must be marked and remembered because the ideology of evil must never be allowed again because it destroys everything in front of it,” Petkovic said at the commemorative event.

The unrest erupted five years after Serbian forces pulled out of Kosovo at the end of the 1998-99 war, amid tensions heightened by the shooting of a Serb youth and the drowning of three ethnic Albanian boys, which was falsely claimed to be ethnically-motivated crime.

According to an OSCE report, 19 people were killed in the violence in 2004 – 11 Kosovo Albanians and eight Serbs.

More than 900 people were injured, including 65 international police officers and 58 Kosovo Police Service officers, and more than 800 buildings destroyed or damaged, including 29 Serbian Orthodox churches or monasteries, the OSCE report said.

International courts in Pristina prosecuted several people who attacked churches, handing down jail sentences ranging from 21 months to 16 years.

Before the event in Gracanica, Bishop Teodosije of Raska-Prizren held a commemorative service at the nearby monastery. Political groups, victims’ associations and members of the public also laid white roses at the ‘Missing’ memorial installation in front of the Gracanica Cultural Centre.

News website KosSev reported that a commemorative event was also held in the northern part of the divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica.

The event, entitled ‘The Day When Everything was Burning, and When There was Silence”, included a memorial service and the laying of wreaths at the ‘White Angel’ monument which bears the names of those killed during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

Another event will be held on Thursday evening in National Theatre in Belgrade with a speech by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, the Serbian government said. It will be broadcast live on Radio-Television Serbia’s second channel.

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