May 27, 2024

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National mourning and “search operations” after death of police officer

National mourning and “search operations” after death of police officer

Kosovar police officers stand guard at the entrance to Panchska village in northern Kosovo on September 25, 2023. Arment Nimani / AFP

Flags are at half-mast and an investigation is underway in Kosovo on Monday, September 25, 24 hours after the death of a Kosovar police officer near the Serbian border and a hunt for dozens of armed men who have fueled tensions between Pristina and Belgrade. “Our investigation continues and we have several officers on the ground“, Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla told reporters, referring to a weapons depot “Heavy weapons, explosives, food…» Found in many places. “We can clearly say that this arsenal is designed for hundreds of attackers“, he added.

Now it’s a matter of finding the members of the heavily armed commando that stayed in the Panjska monastery for several hours on Sunday, and is suspected of killing the guard near the Serbian border. By Sunday afternoon, three of them had been killed, according to Kosovo officials. Asked what was the fate of the other 27, Xhelal Sveçla simply replied: “Onesurgery» The search for them was going on. By midday on Monday, the Banjska monastery’s surroundings were cordoned off, an AFP journalist noted, and police vehicles and a NATO peacekeeping force (KFOR) were seen.

In Pristina, flags are at half-mast as the president declares Monday a national day of mourning in tribute to the slain police officer. On Sunday morning, Kosovo accused Serbia of being behind the attack – an immediate denial from Belgrade, which in turn accused Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurdi of pushing Kosovo Serbs to the limit.provocations“. This renewed tension is the most violent since Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008,”Normalization» Relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

“Height Decline”

«The most important thing now is to start de-escalation and prevent new incidents.», Bojan Elec, deputy director of the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, explains to AFP. “The international community, KFOR… must help. There is a risk of more incidents – especially if, as reports suggest, Kosovar police search the homes of the attackers. This may trigger new incidents».

Sunday’s attackIt will obviously affect the already strained relations between Belgrade and Pristina. Without the EU’s mediation, there would be no contact (…) However, after the events of the weekend, both sides should talk to each other and find ways to de-escalate.», he adds. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic urged Serbia on Sunday evening.Even if you kill us all you will never recognize Kosovo’s independence».

Pristina declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after NATO helped drive Serbian forces out of the former province in a bloody war that killed some 13,000 people, mostly of ethnic Albanian origin. Serbia, backed in particular by its Russian and Chinese allies, has refused to recognize the independence of Kosovo, where a Serb community of around 120,000 people lives. Founded mainly in the north, some of its members disclaim all allegiance to Pristina.

Worry from the Kremlin

The region has been the scene of repeated violence, and in the recent spring, Kosovar authorities decided to appoint Albanian mayors in four municipalities with Serbian majorities. The move sparked large demonstrations, the arrest of three Kosovar police officers by Serbia, and over 30 KFOR soldiers injured in clashes with Serbian demonstrators. The international community is urging both sides to defuse. But the latest attempts at talks between Albin Kurdi and Aleksandar Vucic failed after just a few hours in mid-September. Serbia wants to get a form of Serbian communities before any discussion, while the Kosovar side has a precondition recognition by Belgrade for Kosovo’s independence.

The Kremlin expressed concern over the situation this Monday “Dangerous» In Kosovo, expressions of support for Serbs after an armed incident over the weekend fueled tensions between Pristina and Belgrade. “The situation is indeed very tense and dangerous“, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “It is no secret that provocations aimed at Serbs are often organized“, he added without giving further details.

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