A week after the deadly clashes in Kosovo triggered one of the most serious escalations of tensions in years, the antagonism is still sharp between Serbia and its neighbor, whose independence it does not recognize.
The murder of a Kosovo Albanian policeman, killed on 24 September in an ambush by a paramilitary commando, and the ensuing day-long shooting, killing three Kosovo Serbs, brought to the surface years of mistrust and bitterness. The violence took place in the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo, an area where Serbs are in the majority.
The bodies of the three Serbs killed in the clash were handed over to their families in Pristina on Saturday, according to Serbian State Television (RTS).
While the United States warned Friday about "a large Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo" and called on "Serbia to withdraw (its) troops", no particular movement or increased presence of Serbian armed forces was visible this Saturday, in the region of Raska, a town in southern Serbia near the border with Kosovo, according to an AFP journalist.
But the authorities of Serbia and those of its former province - whose independence Belgrade does not recognize proclaimed in 2008 - have engaged in a war of words and accusations that risks further distancing their positions in a dialogue wanted by Brussels.
Two irreconcilable communities?
On the Kosovo Serb side, there are now fears of an increased presence of Kosovo police special forces. One third of Kosovo's approximately 120,000 Serbs (population 1.8 million) live in the north of the country, on the Serbian border. Supported by Belgrade, they refuse any allegiance to the Kosovo government.
"I am afraid of the repression we have already experienced. A policeman was killed and it is terrible. Now I can only imagine what will follow," said a 38-year-old Kosovo Serb on condition of anonymity. "I just want a normal life, and it's not a normal life. I think after what happened, the whole community will be stigmatized," he added.
During the operation against the commando that had holed up in an Orthodox monastery, Kosovar police arrested three suspects and seized a quantity of weapons and ammunition, sufficient, according to Pristina, to equip "hundreds of fighters".
" READ ALSO "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia": behind the message of Djokovic, a nationalist slogan
On Friday morning, police searched the properties of a local Serb politician, Milan Radoicic. The latter, who would be in Serbia, said Friday, through a lawyer, to have organized the commando without Belgrade's knowledge, with the aim of "creating the conditions to realize the dream of freedom of (his) people in northern Kosovo".
The mainly Albanian inhabitants of the capital, Pristina, like the Kosovar government, blame Belgrade for the latest violence. "Serbia is responsible for what happened. Reconciliation with the Serbs in the north is possible. Why not live together? But they don't want to," said Mevluda Hoxha, a 64-year-old Albanian woman.
Talks broke down
The last talks in Brussels in September to try to find a way of dialogue ended in failure.
While the Serbian side wants to obtain a form of association of Serbian municipalities in the north, i.e. a certain autonomy, the Kosovar side demands before any discussion the recognition by Belgrade of Kosovo's independence.
In the regularly shaken north of Kosovo, tensions had sharply escalated in May when Pristina decided to install Albanian mayors elected in a Serb-boycotted election in four Serb-majority municipalities.
The Serbs then took to the streets to prevent the new mayors from carrying out their duties. Dozens of members of the NATO force in Kosovo (KFOR) were injured in clashes with protesters.
"Reconciliation will be possible if the repeated provocations stop," said Agim Maloku, 60, an economist in Pristina, who added that a possible partition of the territory to cede the north to the Serbs and make peace was not an option. "The north is part of Kosovo and will remain an integral part of Kosovo."