80 injured in Kosovo riot over jibe by ethnic Serb minister

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Riot police use water canon to disperse protestors during clashes in Pristina, Kosovo on January 27, 2015

Riot police use water canon to disperse protestors during clashes in Pristina, Kosovo on January 27, 2015 (AFP Photo/Armend Nimani)

Pristina (AFP) - At least 80 people were injured in clashes Tuesday in Kosovo between police and protesters demanding the dismissal of an ethnic Serb minister accused of insulting the ethnic Albanian majority.

Police fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse thousands of stone-throwing supporters of the nationalist Self Determination party who attempted to penetrate government buildings in the centre of the capital Pristina, an AFP correspondent reported.

Among the injured were 56 police, two seriously, according to a police statement. Over a hundred people were arrested over the disturbances.

Pristina mayor Shpend Ahmeti, who took part in the protest as a member of Self Determination, was briefly detained.

The demonstration was the latest in a series of protests demanding the sacking of Labour and Social Welfare Minister Aleksandar Jablanovic, one of three ethnic Serbs in Prime Minister Isa Mustafa's cabinet.

The minister sparked outrage two weeks ago when he called a group of ethnic Albanians "savages" for trying to prevent Serb pilgrims from visiting a monastery in western Kosovo on Orthodox Christmas. The group had claimed the pilgrim group included "war criminals".

Jablanovic later publicly apologised for his comments but continues to be targeted by protests across the breakaway territory.

"Jablanovic out" and "Down with the government", the crowd chanted Tuesday in Pristina.

"We are continuing with protests and we will not stop until Jablanovic is dismissed from the government," Self Determination leader Albin Kurti told reporters.

Serbia and its former province fought a war in 1998-1999 which ended when a NATO air campaign ousted Belgrade-controlled troops from Kosovo.

Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008.

Some 120,000 ethnic Serbs live in Kosovo, 90 percent of whose 1.8 million people are ethnic Albanians.

Mustafa included three Serb ministers in his 21-member cabinet in a bid to improve relations with Kosovo's largest minority group, as well as with Serbia, which does not recognise the territory's independence.