Rioters protesting Kosovar independence stormed the U.S. Embassy in the Serbian capital of Belgrade today and set the building on fire, according to various news reports.
Tens of thousands of Serbs, incensed by Kosovo’s declaration of independence, which Serbia says was a blatant breach of international law, had converged on Belgrade for the mass rally.
The organizers had said they expected 500,000 people to attend the protests, and there had been cross-party calls for the rally to be peaceful.
The Washington Post reports that masked intruders broke into the embassy—closed to the public this week after the U.S. recognized Kosovo's independence —and set the building alight. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, while authorities responded in armored jeeps and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Fleeing into side streets, the rioters continued to clash with the authorities.
Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared its independence four days ago to the delight of its majority ethnic Albanian population. The Albanians suffered greatly during the late 1990s under a Serbian military campaign to purge them from Kosovo in hope of creating a greater Serbia. In 1999, NATO launched an aerial offensive against Serbian forces in Kosovo and Belgrade, forcing their withdrawal. Since then, Kosovo has been under a United Nations protectorate.
UPDATE: CNN.com reports a burned body has been found in the U.S. Embassy:
One charred body 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.