A standoff involving approximately 30 armed individuals and the police unfolded in northern Kosovo following a previous ambush that tragically claimed the life of one police officer while injuring another.
Kosovo's law enforcement reported the death of three assailants, their identities as yet unknown, and the apprehension of one individual. The armed group has reportedly taken refuge within a monastery compound. Veton Eljsani, the deputy commander of the Kosovo Police for the Northern region, described the situation, stating, "We observe armed individuals in uniform, wielding heavy weapons, actively engaging in gunfire exchanges with us."
Kosovo's police force released a statement via Facebook, indicating that the security situation in the Banjska village area remains highly volatile, with ongoing attacks targeting police units using firearms.
This incident marks a significant escalation in an already unstable region. Kosovo, with a majority Albanian population, includes Serbian-majority areas in the north, such as Banjska.
Although Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, Serbia does not acknowledge this sovereignty. Kosovo's Serbian community considers itself an integral part of Serbia, with Belgrade as its capital, as opposed to Pristina.
The incident began when a border police unit encountered two unlicensed heavy trucks blocking the entrance to a bridge in Banjska overnight. Additional police units were dispatched to the scene. Upon arrival, the police encountered resistance, leading to an exchange of gunfire, the tragic death of one officer, and injuries to another. Kosovo's police force reported that the assailants employed various firearms, including hand grenades and stun guns.
Kosovo's Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, characterised the incident as a "terrorist attack" perpetrated by "Serbian criminal groups." The European Union's foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, swiftly condemned the attack and urged all parties to de-escalate, emphasising the need for justice to be served regarding the attackers. He expressed grave concern about the ongoing hostilities in the vicinity of Banjska Monastery, underscoring the imperative of all stakeholders working together to de-escalate the situation.
Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have flared recently, marked by violent protests in May surrounding disputed local elections, resulting in injuries to numerous Nato peacekeepers. Kosovo's Serbian community has increasingly advocated for greater autonomy within Kosovo, further complicating the situation in the region.
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