| 23 July 2024, Tuesday |

Kosovo says Serbia should hand over escaped Serb gunmen after deadly shootout

Kosovo called on Serbia on Monday to hand over ethnic Serb gunmen it said had escaped after a shootout with Kosovar police that killed four people in the restive north of the country, aggravating tensions between Pristina and Belgrade.

The gunmen stormed the village of Banjska on Sunday, battling police and barricading themselves into a Serbian Orthodox monastery. Police retook the monastery late on Sunday, after three attackers and one police officer were killed.

The United States condemned attacks on police and urged the governments of Kosovo, an ex-Serbian province with a 90% ethnic Albanian majority, and Serbia to defuse decades of antagonism.

Armed police on Monday searched houses in Banjska for any of the estimated 30 gunmen who might not have fled, a police source told Reuters. The village remained sealed off to journalists.

Kosovar authorities said later in the day that some of the gunmen were believed to have escaped to nearby Serbia.

Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said six wounded members of the armed group had been hospitalised in the southern Serbian city of Novi Pazar, near Kosovo’s northern border.

“We are demanding from Serbia to hand these men over to Kosovo authorities as soon as possible, to face justice for their terrorist acts,” in addition to any others who had escaped to Serbia, Svecla told reporters.

Serbian government officials did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

In the northern town of Mitrovica, Kosovar police showed reporters around 20 SUVs and an armoured truck they said were used by the gunmen. Three of the vehicles were painted with the KFOR logo – the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

Police also displayed an array of weapons and ammunition they said had been seized, including former Yugoslav army assault rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, mortars, anti-tank rocket launchers, hand grenades, land mines and drones.

  • Reuters