Masked gunmen attack Kosovo police, killing one officer, raising tensions with Serbia

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s prime minister on Sunday blamed support for neighboring Serbia after an attack that killed one police officer and wounded another. EU-facilitated dialogue To fix relationships.

Prime Minister Albin Kurdi said “masked specialists opened fire on police patrols” at 3 a.m. (01:00 GMT) in the village of Banjska in Lebošavic municipality, 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of the capital Pristina.

Kosovo police said two trucks without license plates blocked the bridge at the entrance to the village. Three police units were sent to stop it, but firing from different positions with various weapons, including hand grenades and bombs, took place.

Police repelled the attack and took two injured police officers to a hospital in southern Mitrovica.

Doctors said one of them died on the way. The other’s condition is not life-threatening.

Kosovo police said on Facebook that one of the attackers was killed.

More than 12 hours after the attack, police say sporadic gunfire is still taking place and local roads are closed, including at two border crossings with Serbia.

The Serbian Orthodox monastery in Banjska is currently under lockdown. A group of pilgrims from Novi Sad in northern Serbia, Abbot Rev. Inside with Danilo.

In a statement, the Kosovo Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church – which oversees monasteries in the former Serb province – said a masked group in an armored vehicle entered the monastery and broke open a locked gate.

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

Serbia and its former province Kosovo have been at odds for decades. Their 1998-99 campaign More than 10,000 people died, mostly Kosovo Albanians. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 but Belgrade has refused to recognize the move.

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Speaking after a meeting of the country’s security council on Sunday, Kurdi called it a “sad day” for Kosovo and named the dead police officer as Afrim Bunjaku.

The prime minister showed a series of photographs showing several four-wheeled vehicles without license plates and an armored personnel carrier “not belonging to the Kosovo Police” near a monastery in Banjska.

The shooting continued from what he described as a group of at least 30 masked and heavily armed military personnel.

“It is clear that these uniformed individuals, at least 30 of them, are an organized professional unit that has come to fight in Kosovo,” he said, calling on them to hand themselves over to Kosovar authorities.

Kosovo’s majority Serb minority lives in four municipalities surrounding Mitrovica in the north.

Kosovo Serbian media reports said residents of Banjska were awakened by gunfire and explosions during the night.

“It was a real little war: first some shooting, then silence, shooting, explosions,” the unidentified resident said, according to Serbian Koschev news agency.

Serbian media reported that both local roads and crossings with Serbia were blocked.

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

Kosovar President Vijosa Usmani condemned the killing at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“Such attacks testify again to the destabilizing power of organized criminal groups from Serbia, which have been destabilizing Kosovo and the region for a long time,” he said.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, condemned the “heinous attack by armed gangs against Kosovo police officers” and asked that “all the facts about the attack be established”. The culprits responsible must face justice.

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“These attacks must stop immediately,” he added, adding that the European Union’s legal mission, or EULEX, as a second security responder, is on the ground and in close contact with authorities and KFOR.

The EU’s envoy for the talks, Miroslav Lajcak, condemned the “horrific attack” and reiterated calls for an “immediate return to dialogue”.

In a statement, the U.S. ambassador in Pristina “strongly” condemned this morning’s planned, violent attacks on the Kosovo police, adding that “the Kosovo police have full and fair responsibility to enforce the rule of law in accordance with the constitution and laws of Kosovo.”

The speaker of Serbia’s parliament, Vladimir Orlik, said that Kurdi was “quick to blame the Serbs” and that Kurdi wanted “escalation”.

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

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is expected to address the public late Sunday and “expose Kurdistan’s lies.”

Earlier this month, an EU-facilitated dialogue meeting in Brussels between Kurdistan and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic Done aggressively. Washington has fully supported the negotiations and the EU’s position.

In February, the E.U placed before A 10-point plan to end months of political turmoil. Kurti and Vusic gave their approval at the time, but some reservations were still unresolved.

The EU warned both countries that commitments made by Serbia and Kosovo in February “constrain them and play a role in the parties’ European path”.

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In May Tension in northern Kosovo 93 peacekeepers were injured in the riots.

A particular flashpoint was the creation of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, or ASM, to coordinate the work of Serb-dominated municipalities in matters such as education, health, and economic development.

Kosovo views the ASM as Belgrade’s attempt to create a Serbian micro-state with broad autonomy, similar to Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The establishment of the ASM was first agreed in Brussels in 2013, and approved by the Kosovo Parliament. But Kosovo’s Constitutional Court later deemed it unconstitutional because it did not include other races and included executive powers.

In protest, Serbian lawmakers, lawyers and police officers walked off the job last year. Their posts are yet to be filled. A few Serbian police officers were hired but threatened to resign.

The rule of law in northern Kosovo is driven by international police officers from the EU Mission, EULEX and a small number of Kosovo police.

The border is guarded by 4,000-strong NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers who have been in Kosovo since 1999.

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Associated Press writer Joanna Zech contributed to this report from Belgrade.

Seminy reports from Tirana, Albania; Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade.

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