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Rioters Break Into Belgrade's U.S. Embassy
Associated Press  |  February 21, 2008
BELGRADE, Serbia - Serb rioters set fire to an office inside the U.S. Embassy Thursday and police clashed with protesters outside other embassy buildings after a large demonstration against Kosovo's declaration of independence.

Masked men broke into the U.S. compound, which has been closed this week, and tried to throw furniture from an office. They set fire to the office and flames shot up the side of the building.

The neighboring Croatian Embassy also was targeted by the same group of protesters and crowds attacked police posts outside the Turkish and British embassies in another part of the city but were beaten back.

Elite police paramilitaries drove armored jeeps down the street outside the U.S. Embassy and fired dozens of tear gas canisters to clear crowds.

The protesters fled into side streets where they continued clashing with the police.

Groups broke into a McDonalds restaurant and demolished the interior. A number of other shops were also ransacked.

Half-a-dozen fire trucks arrived after the rioters had fled from the U.S. Embassy and swiftly put out the fire.

Poll: Independence for Kosovo?

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Thursday urged the Serbian government to protect the U.S. Embassy. He said the U.S. ambassador was at his home and was in contact with U.S. officials.

McCormack said security officials and Marine guards were in a different part of the compound, but nobody was inside the embassy building.

"We want to strongly urge them, and we are in contact with them, to make sure that they devote the assets to deal with this situation," McCormack told reporters, referring to the Serbian government.

Serbia has "a responsibility now to devote the adequate resources to ensure that that facility is protected."

The embassy's spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Doctors at Belgrade's emergency clinic reported treating more than 30 injured, half of whom were policemen. All were lightly injured, said Dusan Jovanovic, deputy chief of the clinic. He added most of the injured protesters were "extremely drunk."

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