Kosovo: the monastery where armed men took refuge “under control”

Kosovo: the monastery where armed men took refuge “under control”

2023-09-25 02:10:01

Tensions continue to rise in northern Kosovo. Kosovar law enforcement regained control of the monastery in the north of the country on Sunday where around thirty armed men had taken refuge for several hours, after the death of a police officer in the night and a renewed tension between Pristina and Belgrade, which denied responsibility.

“We have regained control of this area,” Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla said at a press conference. Three attackers were killed and two men in “uniform” injured, he said without further details. Earlier, police said that four civilians were also “arrested in possession of radio communication tools” and that a large number of weapons and ammunition were seized.

The original death of a police officer

Tensions began before dawn, when a Kosovar police officer patrolling near the border with Serbia was killed in an attack on his unit, and one of his colleagues injured. Armed men then took refuge in the middle of the day in the Banjska monastery, surrounded by police forces with whom exchanges of fire took place. Inside was a group of pilgrims from Novi Sad – in Serbia – who hid when these masked men “stormed the monastery in an armored vehicle, and forced the door”, according to the diocese.

The death of the policeman triggered immediate reactions from Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, and President, Vjosa Osmani, who pointed the finger at Serbia. Albin Kurti accused “Belgrade officials” of offering logistical and financial support “to organized crime”, and Vjosa Osmani certified that “these attacks prove, if it were still necessary, the destabilizing power of criminal gangs , organized by Serbia.

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In the evening, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic denied any Serbian responsibility for the situation in northern Kosovo, affirming that the attackers were Kosovo Serbs. “I don’t want to justify the death of an Albanian – and it’s not justifiable. This must be condemned,” he said. But “the only culprit for everything that happens in the north of Kosovo (…) is Albin Kurti. He constantly provokes, and I am sorry that some Serbs gave in to his provocations.”

Recurring violence

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after NATO helped push Serbian forces out of the former province in a bloody war that left around 13,000 people dead. most of Albanian origin.

Serbia, supported in particular by its Russian and Chinese allies, has since refused to recognize the independence of Kosovo, where a Serbian community of around 120,000 people lives. Located mainly in the north, some of its members refuse all allegiance to Pristina.

The region has since been the scene of recurring violence, the latest dating back to the spring, when the Kosovar authorities decided to appoint Albanian mayors in four municipalities with a Serbian majority.

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