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Latest update : 2008-03-19

Eleven soldiers hurt during clashes with Serbian militants in Mitrovica returned on Tuesday night to France, where they were welcomed by the French defence minister who denounced "Serb extremists".

A military plane carrying 11 French soldiers wounded in the northern Kosovo town of Kosovska Mitrovica touched down late Tuesday at Orly airport here and was welcomed by Defence Minister Herve Morin.
Twenty French soldiers serving in the NATO-led force in Kosovo were wounded, eight of them seriously, during clashes Monday in the flashpoint town, the French army chief of staff said.
The 11, wounded by grenade shrapnel, were all "perfectly conscious" and their state of health did not give rise to concern, even if some of them faced "several months of convalescence," Morin told journalists.
The soldiers were hurt during an operation to retake a UN courthouse occupied by Serbs opposed to Kosovo's independence declaration.
Morin denounced the "Serb extremists who carried out totally unacceptable acts of violence and who must be condemned," adding that they sought to "destabilize the region and notably the north of Kosovo."
"It was an isolated action by Serb extremists who wanted to create a crisis situation," he went on, affirming that "nothing can now halt the historic movement" of Kosovo independence.
Kosovo police officials said that 63 international security force members were injured in the unrest while hospital sources put the number of Serbs hurt at as many as 80.
Kosovo's independence has been recognised by many Western countries but Serbia and Kosovo Serbs -- backed by Russia -- have vehemently rejected the move as illegal.

Date created : 2008-03-19