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Serbian police said Monday they detained 56 neo-Nazis following clashes with antifascists during a banned march by extremists demanding the contested province of Kosovo remain part of the country.
The extremists from the Nacionalni Stroj (National Guard) group clashed with an antifascist counter demonstration when they pressed ahead with the protest Sunday, despite a ban following an outcry by Jewish and other groups. Several people were injured as the extremists hurled stones at the antifascists.
The organizers of the anti-fascist gathering said in a statement Monday that the police failed to protect them and the opposition criticised the government for being too soft on extremists.
The organizers demanded an explanation from the Interior Minister Dragan Jocic as to why the neo-Nazis were allowed to gather in the northern city of Novi Sad, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Belgrade.
Police said an investigative judge had questioned 15 members of the group by late Sunday and the remaining detainees were being questioned by the police in Novi Sad. It was not immediately clear what charges they could face.
In the Serbian parliament, Liberal Party leader Cedomir Jovanovic demanded the resignation of the conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and blasted the government leaders for failing to show up at the anti-fascist rally.
"It was their duty to send a message" against fascism, Jovanovic said.
There was no immediate reaction from Kostunica.
Last month, the World Jewish Congress said that the planned rally was a "matter of great concern" for the organization. The Simon Wiesenthal Center had said that the march was to mark the birthday of SS chief Heinrich Himmler and welcomed the decision to ban it.
The right-wing nationalists had called for the demonstration against the secession of Kosovo where majority ethnic Albanians want independence from Serbia.
Novi Sad, which was the scene of a 1942 massacre of about 800 Jews and 400 Serbs by Nazi occupiers during World War II, is currently run by a right-wing mayor with nationalist policies.
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