The shooting that brought back the tensions between Kosovo and Serbia

02 shkurt 2023 16:59

The shooting of two young Serbs with firearms in Shtërpcë, just a few days after the barricades were removed in north Kosovo, reignited the controversy between Kosovo and Serbia.

The incident happened on the night of Orthodox Christmas, where a group of Kosovo Serbs were gathered to celebrate near the main street. The injuries aged 11 and 21 from the village of Gotovushë in the Municipality of Shtërpcë are not in life-threatening conditions.

According to the official version of the Prosecutor's office, the suspect, unable to drive towards the Ski Center in Brezovica due to the road blockage, had a dispute with the Serbs and then took out his handgun, shooting first in the air and then in the direction of the crowd, wounding two young Serbs.

A few hours after the attack, the Kosovo Police identified and arrested the 32-year-old suspect (A.K), a member of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), who at the time of the attack was not on official duty.

The Department For Serious Crimes within the Basic Prosecutor's Office in Ferizaj asked the Basic Court to assign the detention measure to the defendant within a period of 30 days, due to the suspicion of the criminal offense of "Aggravated Attempted Murder."

According to the Prosecutor's Office description, there is a well-founded suspicion that A.K., on January 6, 2023, at around 14:00, in the village of Gotovushë, intentionally attempted to deprive the two injured of their lives.

After a verbal dispute on the spot, A.K. takes out the "Mossberg" brand handgun and shoots twice, hitting the injured. As a result, they suffered physical injuries and were first sent to the Health Center in Shtërpcë and then to Graçanica Hospital.

There’s also well-based suspicion towards A.K. that he violated the applicable law on the usage of weapons, even though he poseeses a gun permit, committing the criminal offense "Using a weapon or a dangerous tool."

In addition, the Prosecutor's Office report states that he caused great danger to people's lives on the road that leads to the Ski Center, as there was a crowd of citizens on the road, thereby committing the criminal offense of "causing general danger."

This case provoked numerous reactions. Local leaders and foreign diplomats demanded clarification of the incident, which is currently being investigated by the relevant bodies.

Kosovo President, Vjosa Osmani, said that the wounding of the 11 and 21-year-old is an intolerable act and that the perpetrator should be brought to justice. She said that the country's institutions are maximally committed to providing a safe and peaceful environment for citizens regardless of their ethnicity.

Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, also condemned the attack of the two young Serbs, saying that the suspect must and will face the justice system without any doubt.

Meanwhile, the German Ambassador in Pristina, Jörn Rohde, while condemning the attack in Shtërpcë, said they also welcome the immediate response of the Kosovo Police.

The EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, expressed that he was shocked by this attack, saying that there are no justifications [for such actions].

There was also a pronouncement from the head of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Lars Gunnar Wigemark, who qualified the attack on Serbian youth as senseless.

In addition to local and international officials, the incident was condemned by civil society activists, who said that the wounding of a child and a youngster of the Serb community by a member of the KSF is an unacceptable crime.

The roadblock

It has become a trend for Serbian politicians to manipulate and draw conclusions when such incidents happen without waiting for circumstances to be clarified.

A few hours after the incident, many Serbs gathered in Shtërpcë to block the road with car ties and wood. Subsequently, the mayor of Shtërpcë, Dalibor Jevtic, met the officials of the Regional Directorate of the Kosovo Police in Ferizaj, from whom he received the commitment to increase security measures, considering the possibility of placing cameras.

Jevtic also requested to establish checkpoints in the villages of Drajkovc and Jazhincë, to increase the police presence at bus stations when children come and go from school and increase police patrolling in the main streets of Shtërpcë.

Furthermore, the mother of one of the injured spoke about the incident and changed her statement afterward. She initially said that the gun was not aimed at her son but down the ground. Yet later she declared that this was a premeditated murder attempt on her son, just as the Serbian representatives in Kosovo and those in Serbia claim.

The Serbian List accused Kurti of the injuring of youngsters

Serbian politicians misused the incident and accused Prime Minister Kurti that he is planning the deportations and killings of Serbs. In fact, each incident, including occasional robberies in localities populated by the Serb majority was politicized by Serbia.

This has also happened in cases where the law enforcement agencies qualified the incidents as theft, not related to a specific ethnic group.

The Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, published a video on Twitter of the wounded child, with the inscription that he was shot "only because he is a Serb and that this is the true face of Kosovo."

Meanwhile, the Serbian List, who organized the protest in Shtërpcë, also blamed Kurti by saying that all the incidents and problems are happening because of his policies.

Although the motives of the shootings have not yet been clarified and the case is still under investigation, the chairman of the Serbian List, Goran Rakic, stated that the young Serbs were shot only because of their ethnicity.

Furthermore, the Serbian List accused the Serbian representatives in the government of Kosovo that they did not dare to oppose Kurti to protect the Serbs and that Nenad Rasić and Rada Trajković are opportunists that only care about power.

This case revealed clashes between the main Kosovo Serb political entity and other Kosovo Serb politicians, who are considered more loyal and cooperative to Kosovo.

Rashić, who was appointed Minister for Communities and Return in December 2023, after the resignation of Goran Rakić, spoke about the incident too.

He delivered a statement for a Serbian medium which provoked reactions. Initially, he described the attack as intentional and ethnically motivated. Afterwards Rashic said to the Albanian media that his statement was misinterpreted, as he only referred to the statements made by the investigative bodies.

The Serbian List also used this contradiction of Rashić to attack him for his inconsistency.

The incident in Shtërpcë happened a short time after the freedom of movement was enabled in north Kosovo where Serbs deployed heavy vehicles for 19 days. The barricades were placed as a result of the arrest of former Serbian policeman Dejan Pantić who was under the suspicion for the attacks on the officials and offices of the Municipal Electoral Commission in the north.

The barricades were removed, and the border crossings returned to normal after the Basic Court changed Pantić’s detention measure to house arrest.


Prepared by: Fitim Gashi

*This article is part of the regional initative Western Balkans Regional Anti-disinformation.

*This article was originally published in Albanian.

02 shkurt 2023