Above: US Embassy on fire
A group of 300 masked Serb demonstrators set fire to the American embassy in Belgrade last night.
Fires started on two floors of the embassy. The trespassing mob then started throwing furniture from office windows above. More protesters outside celebrate at the sight of the burning building (shown in the picture above).
The building had been closed in advance since news of a protest came out. None of the diplomatic staff were in the building.
The Belgrade government seemed to only take action as the rioters look to turn to the Croatian embassy next door. They immediately sent paramilitary police armed with teargas to expel the crowd. Next came the firefighters who then put out the flames.
Serbs have been blaming the countries of the West for backing up Kosovo in its declaration of independence. To say that this incident will incite tension between the United States and Serbia is an understatement.
Earlier that day Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica denounced the Kosovo government and its Western allies in America and the European Union.
“Kosovo belongs to Serbia,” he said. “There is no force, no threat, no punishment that is strong enough and bad enough for any Serb to say differently. He also added that they were not alone in this “fight” – and that President Vladimir Putin of Russia was on their side.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that the Serb government had a responsibility to protect the embassy. “The message was very clear, that the situation was intolerable, that they needed to act immediately to provide adequate security,” he said.
The United States ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad said he would seek condemnation by the UN Security Council.
Aside from the Croatian embassy, the British, German, Turkish and Bosnian embassies were also attacked by the protesters.
An unidentified charred body that was later found inside the embassy. Around 150 people more were injured in the streets (this includes 30 Belgrade police and a Dutch reporter). Gangs also vandalized and looted Western shops and banks.
PM Kostunica had promised it would not happen again.