Masked gunmen attack Kosovo police and kill 1 officer in an escalation of tensions with Serbia

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s prime minister on Sunday stated one police officer was killed and one other wounded in an attack he blamed on assist from neighboring Serbia, growing tensions between the 2 former conflict foes at a fragile second in their European Union-facilitated dialogue to normalize ties.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti stated “masked professionals armed with heavy weapons” opened hearth on a police patrol in the village of Banjska, in Leposavic municipality, 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of the capital Pristina at 3 a.m. (01:00 GMT).

Kosovo police stated two vehicles with out license plates blocked a bridge on the entrance to the village. Three police models have been despatched to unblock it however got here below hearth from completely different positions with numerous weapons, together with hand grenades and bombs.

Police managed to push again the attack and take two injured police officers to the hospital in southern Mitrovica.

One of them was useless on arrival, medical doctors stated. The situation of the opposite shouldn’t be life-threatening.

Kosovo Police stated on Facebook that one of the attackers was killed.

More than 12 hours after the attack started, police say there are nonetheless sporadic exchanges of gunfire and native roads stay closed, together with two border crossings with Serbia.

The temple of the Serbian Orthodox monastery in Banjska is presently locked down. A bunch of pilgrims from the town of Novi Sad, in northern Serbia, is inside, alongside with an abbot, the Rev. Danilo.

In a press release, the Kosovo Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church — which oversees the monasteries in the previous Serbian province — stated a bunch of masked males in an armored automobile stormed the monastery, breaking down the locked gate.

“Armed, masked men move around the courtyard and occasional gunshots are heard,” the diocese stated.

Serbia and its former province, Kosovo, have been at odds for many years. Their 1998-99 conflict left greater than 10,000 folks useless, principally Kosovo Albanians. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 however Belgrade has refused to acknowledge the transfer.

Speaking after a gathering of the nation’s Security Council Sunday, Kurti stated it was a “sad day” for Kosovo and named the useless police officer as Afrim Bunjaku.

The prime minister displayed a set of photographs which confirmed a quantity of four-wheel drive automobiles with out license plates and an armored personnel provider “which does not belong to the Kosovo police,” close to the monastery in Banjska.

There was ongoing gunfire from what he described as a bunch of not less than 30 army professionals, masked and closely armed.

“It is clear that these uniformed persons, at least 30, are an organized professional unit who have come to fight in Kosovo,” he stated, calling on them at hand themselves over to the Kosovar authorities.

Most of Kosovo’s ethnic Serb minority lives in 4 municipalities round Mitrovica, in the north.

Reports in Kosovo Serb media stated residents of Banjska have been woken by shootings and explosions in the night time.

“It was a real little war: first some gunfire, then silence, shootings, detonations,” Serbian Kossev information company quoted an unidentified resident as saying.

Serbian media stated each native roads and crossings with Serbia have been blocked.

“Organized crime, which is politically, financially and logistically supported from Belgrade, is attacking our state,” Kurti wrote on his Facebook web page.

Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani, who’s in New York on the United Nations General Assembly, denounced the killing.

“Such attacks testify once again to the destabilizing power of the criminal bands organized from Serbia which for a long time … are destabilizing Kosovo and the region,” she stated.

EU’s international coverage chief Josep Borrell condemned “the hideous attack by an armed gang against Kosovo Police officers” and requested that “all facts about the attack need to be established. The responsible perpetrators must face justice.”

He added that “these attacks must stop immediately,” including that the EU’s rule of legislation mission, or EULEX, as second safety responder, is on the bottom and in shut contact with the authorities and KFOR.

Miroslav Lajcak, EU’s envoy for the talks, additionally condemned the “horrific attack” and repeated the decision “to return to dialogue immediately”

In a press release, the U.S. ambassador in Pristina “strongly” condemned the orchestrated, violent assaults on the Kosovo Police this morning,” including that “the Kosovo Police has full and legitimate responsibility for enforcing the rule of law according to the constitution and laws of Kosovo.”

Serbia’s parliamentary speaker Vladimir Orlic stated Kurti “was quick to blame the Serbs,” including that Kurti was the one who needed an “escalation.”

“He (Kurti) said it was some kind of organized action by professionals,” Orlic advised native Prva tv station. “They must have been identified and he knows who they are and what they are, and everything is clear.”

In Belgrade, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic is anticipated to deal with the general public afterward Sunday to “expose Kurti’s lies,” in response to pro-government media.

Earlier this month, an EU-facilitated dialogue assembly in Brussels between Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ended in acrimony. Washington has totally supported the negotiations and the stance of the EU.

In February, the EU put ahead a 10-point plan to finish months of political crises. Kurti and Vucic gave their approval on the time, however with some reservations which have nonetheless not been resolved.

The EU warned each nations that the commitments that Serbia and Kosovo made in February “are binding on them and play a role in the European path of the parties,” which refers to their probabilities of becoming a member of the 27-nation bloc.

In May tensions in northern Kosovo left 93 peacekeepers harm in riots.

A selected flashpoint has been the creation of the Association of the Serb-Majority Municipalities, or ASM, to coordinate the work of Serb-dominated municipalities on issues corresponding to schooling, well being and financial growth.

Kosovo considers the ASM as an effort by Belgrade to create a Serb mini-state with large autonomy, just like Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The ASM’s institution was first agreed in Brussels in 2013, and accredited in the Kosovo parliament. But Kosovo’s Constitutional Court later deemed it unconstitutional, as a result of it wasn’t inclusive of different ethnicities and may entail govt powers.

In protest, final yr Serb lawmakers, prosecutors and police officers walked off the job. Their posts have nonetheless not been stuffed. A number of Serb police officers have been recruited however acquired threats telling them to resign.

Northern Kosovo’s rule of legislation has been run by worldwide police officers from the EU mission, EULEX, and a restricted quantity of Kosovo police, whose presence has been vehemently protested by Belgrade.

The border is guarded by peacekeepers from the 4,000-strong NATO-led KFOR power, which has been in Kosovo since 1999.


Associated Press author Jovana Gec contributed to this report from Belgrade.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania; Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade.


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