A police officer was killed and four others were wounded Monday in fierce clashes with thousands of ethnic Albanians protesting reduced autonomy in Kosovo province, the state news agency Tanjug said.

The death was the first reported in five straight days of protests in the southern province.Paramilitary police used batons, tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds in at least five Kosovo towns, Tanjug said.

The agency said the policeman was shot at a demonstration by about 4,000 ethnic Albanians in Podujevo, 20 miles north of the provincial capital of Pristina. A source in Pristina said he was killed by a shot from a high-powered rifle that apparently was fired from the crowd of rock-throwing demonstrators.

Tanks were seen on the road between Pristina and Podujevo, and gunfire was heard after riots broke out in Pristina.