Standoff between Kosovo police and Serbian gunmen ends with 4 killed

Standoff between Kosovo police and Serbian gunmen ends with 4 killed

A standoff between gunmen and Kosovo authorities at a monastery close to the border with Serbia ended after 4 folks have been killed, authorities in Pristina mentioned, after a police operation to regain management of the realm.

“We put this territory underneath management. It was completed after a number of consecutive battles,” Xhelal Svecla, Kosovo’s minister of inner affairs, instructed reporters after the standoff was over.

The announcement follows a chaotic day that started when a police patrol was ambushed close to the village of Banjska early Sunday leaving one Kosovo legislation enforcement officer lifeless and one other wounded.

The gunmen fled to a close-by monastery the place they barricaded themselves and traded gunfire with Kosovo police for hours, with not less than three assailants shot lifeless.

The assault and subsequent combating mark one of many gravest escalations in Kosovo in years, after months of mounting tensions and stalled talks between the nation’s authorities and Serbia.

Earlier within the day Kosovo’s prime minister Albin Kurti mentioned about 30 closely armed gunmen have been surrounded by authorities within the complicated and referred to as for his or her give up.

Svecla mentioned police had made a number of arrests throughout the clearance operation and seized a variety of weapons and tools. Nevertheless it remained unclear if all of the gunmen had been apprehended throughout the sweep.

The Serbian Orthodox Church additionally confirmed that gunmen had stormed the monastery in Banjska, the place pilgrims from the northern Serbian metropolis of Novi Unhappy have been staying. Photos launched by Kosovo authorities confirmed a number of closely armed gunmen carrying uniforms, barricading themselves in on the monastery.

Police later mentioned in a press release that not less than three attackers had been killed and one arrested throughout the firefight. One other 4 civilian suspects carrying radio tools and weapons have been additionally arrested.

Kosovo’s prime minister Albin Kurti pays respect to the police officer who was killed by armed gunmen. {Photograph}: Anadolu Company/Getty Pictures

Kosovo police additionally confirmed that the Jarinje and Brnjak border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo had been closed after the incident.

Kurti’s feedback on the press convention got here hours after he referred to as the ambush that killed one police officer and wounded one other an act of terrorism and blamed the Serbian authorities.

“Organised crime with political, monetary and logistical assist from officers in Belgrade is attacking our nation,” Kurti wrote on social media.

The Nato-led KFOR mission mentioned its forces have been current within the space and “standing prepared to reply if required”.

In keeping with Kosovan legislation, authorities authorities aren’t allowed to enter Orthodox properties, together with church buildings and monasteries, with out first receiving permission from the Serbian Orthodox church.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic later condemned the killing of the police officer, however remained agency in placing the blame on Kurti for persecuting Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs.

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Kurti “provokes all the time, I’m sorry that some of the Serbs fell for these provocations. Kurti is the only culprit, the only person who wants conflict and war,” Vucic told media.

He denied that Belgrade had anything to do with the attack.

Asked how come the Serb gunmen were photographed wearing combat uniforms, Vucic said anyone could buy such uniforms in ordinary shops and that the ones seen did not belong to the Serbian military or police force.

Vucic also blasted the west and its “hypocrisy” on Kosovo.

“You can kill us all. Serbia will never recognise the independence of Kosovo, that monster creation that you made by bombing Serbia,” Vucic said.

The attack comes more than a week after talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo centred on improving ties failed to make a breakthrough during EU-mediated negotiations in Brussels.

The EU has been trying for years to resolve the long-running dispute between the Balkan neighbours that has soured relations since their war more than two decades ago.

Brussels believed it had broken the impasse in March by hammering out a plan to normalise ties, but since then there has been minimal progress.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, condemned Sunday’s attack, calling the targeting of police “hideous”.

“The responsible perpetrators must face justice,” Borrell wrote on social media. His office later called it a “cowardly terrorist attack”.

Tensions in northern Kosovo have been smouldering for months, after the Pristina government’s decision to install ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-majority municipalities in May.

The move triggered one of the worst bouts of unrest in the north in years. Demonstrations followed, as well as the arrest of three Kosovan police officers by Serbia and a violent riot by Serbian protesters during which more than 30 Nato peacekeepers were injured.

Kosovo remains overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Albanians, but in the northern stretches of the territory near the border with Serbia, ethnic Serbs are the majority in several municipalities.

The tussle in the north is the latest in a long list of incidents to rock the area since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. That was nearly a decade after Nato forces helped push Serbian troops from the former province during a war that killed about 13,000 people.

Belgrade – along with its key allies China and Russia – has refused to recognise Kosovo’s independence, in effect preventing it from having a seat at the United Nations.

During an address to the UN general assembly last week, Vučić accused the west of hypocrisy. He said its recognition of Kosovo’s independence was based on the same justification as Russia’s war on Ukraine.

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