Rioters Burn Vacant U.S. Embassy in Belgrade

Protesters in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, broke into the U.S. Embassy on Thursday and set some rooms on fire. The rioters were part of larger protests among Serbian nationalists opposed to the independence of Kosovo. A charred body was later found inside the embassy.

At a briefing this afternoon, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the body was not that of an American. He said all American embassy personnel have been accounted for. The only employees on the scene were local security guards. At least one Belgrade TV station reported that the body was that of a rioter.

Robert Siegel talks with Reuters Balkans correspondent Ellie Tzortzi, who was at the embassy when a mob of young men started attacking it. She was still there when police returned to keep the building from being destroyed. Tzortzi describes what she saw.

Serb Protesters Storm Vacant U.S. Embassy

Serbian nationalists opposed to Kosovo's independence storm the United States embassy in Belgrade. i i

Serbian nationalists opposed to Kosovo's independence storm the United States embassy in Belgrade, after a massive rally in the Serbian capital. Several hundred young men dressed in hooded sports tops and scarfs had broken into the premises on the main boulevard of Kneza Milosa. The embassy was not staffed at the time of the attack. STR/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption STR/AFP/Getty Images
Serbian nationalists opposed to Kosovo's independence storm the United States embassy in Belgrade.

Serbian nationalists opposed to Kosovo's independence storm the United States embassy in Belgrade, after a massive rally in the Serbian capital. Several hundred young men dressed in hooded sports tops and scarfs had broken into the premises on the main boulevard of Kneza Milosa. The embassy was not staffed at the time of the attack.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Angry demonstrators broke into an empty U.S. embassy in Belgrade on Thursday, setting fire to its facade and tossing documents out of windows to protest Washington's apparent support for Kosovo's independence.

Serbian police stood by as black smoke billowed from the embassy compound, which had been boarded up after rioters threw stones at the structure earlier in the week. Papers and chairs were thrown out of the windows, with doors wedged into burning window frames.

Protesters were later seen removing the embassy's American flag.

The attack follows a day in which an estimated 150,000 demonstrators protested against Kosovo's weekend declaration of independence from Serbia. Protesters waved Serbian flags and carried signs reading "Stop USA terror".

The subject of Kosovo's independence is extremely sensitive for Serbs, who consider the breakaway region the cradle of their medieval nationhood.

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