By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Writer
BELGRADE, Serbia – Serb rioters broke into the U.S. Embassy Thursday and set fire to an office after a massive protest against Kosovo’s independence that drew an estimated 150,000 people.
Protesters attend a during mass protest rally against Kosovo’s declaration of independence in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. At least 150,000 Serbs gathered in central Belgrade on Thursday in a massive protest against Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Masked attackers broke into the building, which has been closed this week, and tried to throw furniture from an office. A blaze broke out inside one of the offices. Riot police drove armored jeeps down the street and fired tear gas to clear the crowd.
The neighboring Croatian Embassy also was attacked by the same group of protesters.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack strongly urged the Serbian government to protect the U.S. Embassy. He said the U.S. ambassador was at his home and was in contact with U.S. officials.
The U.S. embassy in Belgrade burns after masked attackers broke into the building and set an office on fire at the end of a massive protest against Western-backed Kosovo independence, in the Serbian capital, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. More than 150,000 Serbs gathered at the rally vowing to retake the territory which is viewed as Serbia’s religious and national heartland.
More than a dozen nations have recognized Kosovo‘s declaration of independence on Sunday, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
But the declaration has been rejected by Serbia‘s government and the ethnic Serbians who populate northern Kosovo. Russia, China and numerous other nations have also condemned the declaration, saying it sets a precedent that separatist groups around the world will seek to emulate.
Earlier, police estimated that about 150,000 people had attended a rally in the Serbian capital. The crowd waved Serbian flags and carried signs reading “Stop USA terror.” One group set fire to a red-and-black Albanian flag. Most of Kosovo’s population is ethnic Albanian.