BERLIN – Germany will deploy a quick reaction force of several hundred troops to Kosovo to strengthen the NATO mission there amid heightened tensions ahead of next month's election in neighboring Serbia, an official said Saturday.
About 550 German soldiers and 130 Austrian troops will be deployed to the region by May 1 at NATO's request in a bid to strengthen its KFOR peacekeepers mission, said German Central command spokesman Hauke Bunks.
Serbia will hold parliamentary and local elections May 6, which could re-ignite tensions between minority ethnic Albanians and majority Serbs in northern Kosovo.
"In their evaluation of the situation, NATO and the European Union found that the KFOR forces on the ground might not be sufficient to appropriately react to possible Kosovo-wide security incidents in connection with the elections," the German military said in a statement.
KFOR currently has some 5,500 troops on the ground, including about 1,300 German troops. The second-largest troops contributor is Italy, followed by the United States, with some 1,000 and 800 troops respectively.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognized by many countries, including most EU nations and the United States, but not by Serbia or Russia.