At slightest 30 gunmen killed a Kosovar Albanian constabulary serviceman past stormed an Orthodox monastery successful Kosovo adjacent its borderline with Serbia, mounting disconnected weapon battles that near 3 assailants dormant and raised tensions betwixt the 2 erstwhile wartime foes arsenic they question to normalise ties.
Police surrounded Banjska, a colony located 55km northbound of Kosovo’s superior wherever the monastery is located, and the gunfire is continuing, according to Prime Minister Albin Kurti. Kosovo’s interior curate stated aboriginal connected Sunday that the country was nether power but helium did not accidental if the gunmen had left.
The Kosovo Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church said a temple of the monastery successful Banjska was locked down aft the gunmen stormed it. A radical of pilgrims from Serbia was wrong the temple on with an abbot.
Kurti said the onslaught was supported by Serbia. Serbian pro-government media responded that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would talk aboriginal Sunday to “expose Kurti’s lies.” It was unclear if the gunmen were Serbs.
Serbia and its erstwhile province, Kosovo, person been astatine likelihood for decades. Their 1998-99 warfare near much than 10,000 radical dead, mostly Kosovo Albanians. Kosovo unilaterally declared independency successful 2008 but Belgrade has refused to recognise the move.
Earlier this month, an EU-facilitated gathering successful Brussels betwixt Kurti and Vucic to normalise ties ended successful acrimony. The United States has supported the negotiations and the EU’s presumption successful trying to resoluteness the ongoing root of hostility successful the Balkans.
On Sunday, the Kosovo diocese said a radical of masked men successful an armoured conveyance stormed the monastery, breaking down the locked gross and shooting guns.
“Armed, masked men determination astir the courtyard and occasional gunshots are heard,” it said.
Earlier connected Sunday, Prime Minister Kurti said “masked professionals equipped with dense weapons” launched the attack, opening occurrence connected a constabulary patrol astir 3am (01:00 GMT) successful Banjska adjacent the monastery.
Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said they had arrested six gunmen, 2 of whom were injured, and recovered “an “extraordinarily ample magnitude of weaponry and ammunition, explosives.”
Three of the assailants were killed. One constabulary serviceman has been killed and 2 others injured, the past during the equipped confrontation, seemingly adjacent the monastery astatine the village, authorities said.
At a quality league Kurti displayed a acceptable of photos which showed a fig of four-wheel thrust vehicles without licence plates and an armored unit bearer “which does not beryllium to the Kosovo police” adjacent the monastery.
He described the equipped assailants arsenic “an organised nonrecreational portion who person travel to combat successful Kosovo,” calling connected them to manus themselves implicit to Kosovar authorities.
Police said the concern remained tense portion “gunfire attacks against constabulary units proceed with the aforesaid strength from the moving transgression groupings.”
Kosovo constabulary said the onslaught began erstwhile 3 constabulary units were dispatched to a span astatine the entranceway to the colony that had been blocked by trucks. The constabulary officers came nether occurrence from weapons that included manus grenades and bombs and 1 was killed. The equipped men past stormed the monastery.
Kurti called it a “sad day” for Kosovo, identifying the dormant constabulary serviceman arsenic Afrim Bunjaku.
Local roads and 2 borders crossings into Serbia were closed. Most of Kosovo’s taste Serb number lives successful 4 municipalities astir Mitrovica, successful the north.
“It was a existent small war: archetypal immoderate gunfire, past silence, shootings, detonations,” Serbian quality bureau Kossev quoted an unidentified nonmigratory arsenic saying.
Kurti wrote connected his Facebook leafage that “Organised crime, which is politically, financially and logistically supported from Belgrade, is attacking our state.”
The talker of Serbia’s parliament, Vladimir Orlic, responded that Kurti “was speedy to blasted the Serbs” but really was the 1 who wanted an “escalation.”
The European Union’s overseas argumentation chief, Josep Borrell, condemned “the hideous onslaught by an equipped pack against Kosovo constabulary officers” and said “all facts astir the onslaught request to beryllium established. The liable perpetrators indispensable look justice.”
He added that the EU’s regularisation of instrumentality mission, oregon EULEX, had representatives connected the crushed and successful adjacent interaction with authorities and the NATO-led planetary peacekeeping unit successful Kosovo.
Borrell talked by telephone with Kurti and Vucic, reiterating “his telephone for the assailants to surrender instantly and the merchandise of the pilgrims astatine Banjska Monastery, for them to permission safely.”
International constabulary officers from the EU ngo and a constricted fig of Kosovo constabulary person been liable for enforcing the regularisation of instrumentality successful bluish Kosovo. Serbia has vehemently protested the beingness of the Kosovo Police.
In February, the EU enactment guardant a 10-point program to extremity the latest circular of heightened tensions betwixt Serbia and Kosovo. Kurti and Vucic gave their support astatine the time, but with immoderate reservations that person inactive not been resolved.
The EU warned some countries that the commitments the leaders made successful February “are binding connected them and play a relation successful the European way of the parties” — successful different words, Serbia and Kosovo’s chances of joining the 27-nation bloc.
The Kosovo-Serbia borderline is guarded by peacekeepers from the 4000-strong NATO-led KFOR force, which has been successful Kosovo since 1999. In May, tensions successful bluish Kosovo near 93 peacekeepers wounded successful riots.