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Police Officer Killed in Attack Blamed on Serbia, Raising Tensions in Kosovo-Serbia Relations

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A Police Officer Killed and Another Wounded in Attack in Kosovo

In a recent incident, a police officer was tragically killed and another injured in an attack that the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, attributed to support from neighboring Serbia. This incident has escalated tensions between the two former war foes, occurring at a delicate moment during their European Union-led dialogue to normalize relations.

The Attack

The attack took place in the village of Bangska, located in the Leposavec municipality, approximately 55 kilometers north of the capital, Pristina. Prime Minister Kurti revealed that a group of “masked professionals armed with heavy weapons” opened fire on a police patrol at 3 a.m. local time. Two trucks without license plates had blocked a bridge at the entrance to the village, prompting the dispatch of three police units to clear the road. However, the officers came under fire from various locations, with the attackers using different weapons, including grenades and bombs.

Fortunately, the police were able to repel the attack, but two officers were injured and had to be taken to a hospital in southern Mitrovica. Tragically, one officer, Ephrem Bungaku, succumbed to his injuries upon arrival at the hospital. The other officer’s condition is reported as non-life-threatening.

Prime Minister’s Response

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Prime Minister Kurti expressed his sorrow over the incident, describing it as a “sad day” for Kosovo. He presented a group of photos that depicted several four-wheel drive vehicles without license plates and an armored personnel carrier, which he stated did not belong to the Kosovo Police. According to Kurti, the photos provided evidence of an organized professional unit consisting of at least 30 heavily armed soldiers, who he urged to surrender to the Kosovo authorities.

Reactions and Context

The majority of Kosovo’s ethnic Serb minority reside in four municipalities around Mitrovica, which is in the northern part of the country. Reports from Serbian media in Kosovo revealed that the residents of Banjska, the village where the attack occurred, woke up to the sounds of gunfire and explosions during the night. Serbian media also reported that local roads and crossings with Serbia were closed in response to the incident.

Prime Minister Kurti, in a Facebook post, accused organized crime groups, politically and financially supported by Belgrade (the capital of Serbia), of attacking Kosovo. President Vjosa Osmani, who was attending the UN General Assembly meetings in New York, condemned the killing and emphasized the destabilizing power of organized criminal gangs from Serbia.

The US ambassador in Pristina strongly condemned the attack on the Kosovo police, emphasizing the responsibility of the police to enforce the rule of law. On the other hand, Serbian Parliament Speaker Vladimir Orlik criticized Kurti for quickly blaming the Serbs and accused him of seeking escalation.

This incident comes after a recent acrimonious meeting between Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic during an EU-facilitated dialogue in Brussels. The United States has shown full support for the negotiations and the European Union’s stance on the matter.

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