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Feb 21, 2008 | 18:46 GMT

Serbia: U.S. Embassy Attacked

ALEXA STANKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images
Protesters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Serbia following the conclusion of a massive government-sponsored rally in downtown Belgrade. Around 300,000 protesters had gathered in front of the Serbian parliament; a group of around 3,000 to 5,000 demonstrators separated from the main body of peaceful protesters and began engaging in violent acts in front of the U.S. Embassy. They burned the embassy flag, apparently sparking a fire inside the embassy. They also looted stores in the main shopping district of Belgrade, the Knez Mihajlova Street, and the Croatian Embassy reportedly came under attack, too. The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade has been expecting an incident for some time, so windows were boarded up during the weekend. A source within the embassy reported that there were no injuries, but that there was indeed a "crisis situation." Violent protests following the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo on Feb. 17 had previously targeted the embassy, but until now protesters were unable to get through the police cordon set up in front of the embassy. This time around, the protesters were able to force the police to withdraw to a side street by stoning them and then proceeded to stone the embassy and burn the flag. While this is certainly an increased level of violence by the protesters in Belgrade, it is neither unexpected nor evidence of a downward-spiraling situation. The Serbian government has said it will get the situation in Belgrade under control. The question for the night is what the rest of the protesters are going to do. After holding a meeting in front of the parliament building, the bulk of the peaceful protesters went to the St. Sava Temple to hold a prayer. There is a possibility that after holding the prayer more protesters could return via the Knez Milosh Street, where most foreign embassies are housed.
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