Angry demonstrators protesting Kosovo’s independence from Serbia attacked the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade on Thursday, throwing rocks, breaking windows and setting fires.
Serbian TV showed someone trying to set fire to the U.S. flag at the embassy, which was closed and unstaffed when the masked protesters attacked.
Riot police fired tear gas at the rioters and lines of armored vehicles were on the streets before the embassy perimeter was secured. A State Department official told CNN “things are under control.”
Kosovo declared independence last Sunday and the United States was among the first countries to offer official recognition of its split from Serbia.
One charred body — a male protester — was found in the U.S. Embassy compound, embassy spokesman in Belgrade William Wanlund said.
The only Americans at the embassy during the violence were Marines, who are all said to be accounted for.
Bratislaw Grubacic, chief editor of VIP magazine in Belgrade, said police reported 32 people injured, including 14 police officers. Watch as a protester tries to set fire to the embassy flag »
Teresa Gould, a translator for Belgrade TV, said the Croatian Embassy next door also was attacked. Police quickly rounded up the demonstrators, witnesses said. Watch as witness says protestors threw rocks, Molotov cocktail »
Nikola Jovanovic, a political writer for the newspaper Blic, said two floors of the embassy were burned. He estimated about 50 people, including 15 police officers, were injured.
“You could say the American embassy is trashed in this protest,” he said.
Serbian media, however, estimated that between 96 and 107 people were injured in the protests, up to 35 of them police officers.
Smaller groups attacked police posts outside the Turkish and British Embassies in another part of the city but were beaten back, The Associated Press reported. See photos of the chaos »
Richard Holbrooke, a former negotiator in the Balkans under President Clinton, said: “The fact that (independence has) not happened as peacefully as people had hoped is the direct result of the incitement to violence by extremist elements in Belgrade, implicitly and privately supported by the Russians.”