Bomb Blast in Kosovo Kills 2

A powerful blast ripped through several shops in Kosovo's capital early Monday, killing two people and injuring nine others, officials said.

While the motive for the attack was unclear, Kosovo's government said it was not related to the U.N.-mediated negotiations on the province's demands for independence from Serbia.

The explosion happened around 2:30 a.m. local time in a shopping mall in the center of Pristina. Police said the blast was caused by an explosive device.

All the victims were taken to a hospital, police spokesman Veton Elshani said. One was in critical condition. Initially police reported ten injured, but they later lowered the official toll to nine.

"We do not know the motive for the moment and we do not know who would stand behind this explosion," Elshani said.

At least one of the victims is believed to have been a passer-by, while others were in a coffee shop a few hours before beginning the daily fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

NATO peacekeepers serving in the province and United Nations police secured the area and carried out a search for any other explosive devices. None was found.

Elshani said most of the victims were injured by a concrete block that fell after the blast. It was not immediately clear what was the target of the attack.

The province's government condemned the attack as "a criminal act against Kosovo's interests," but said it was not linked to the negotiations with Serbia.

"Although it is not linked to the political process, it sends a bad message in this very important phase for Kosovo's future," the government said in a statement.

Last month police ransacked one of the shops in the mall and arrested several ethnic Albanians suspected of involvement in the shooting of a policeman.

Kosovo is formally part of Serbia, but has been under U.N. and NATO control since 1999 when the alliance bombed Serb forces and ended the troops' brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians.