Two Kosovar police officers who were patrolling near a road reported as blocked were attacked in the early hours of Sunday September 24 near the town of Zveçan in northern Kosovo. One of them was killed and the other was injured. “The police unit was attacked from different positions with heavy weapons, including grenades”the police said in a press release.
In a message posted on X (formerly Twitter), the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurtiaccused Serbia “to sponsor terrorist attacks in the North”. He added : “Serbia’s support of violence and terrorism constitutes a blatant violation of both our national security and international law, principles and values”.
During of a press conference with the Deputy Director General of the Kosovo Police, Fehmi Hoti, he added that around thirty armed men have taken refuge in a monastery and are surrounded by police in Kosovo. “There are at least 30 professionals, soldiers or armed police officers, who are currently surrounded by our police forces and whom I invite to surrender”.
Inside the monastery would be, according to a press release from the diocese, “a group of pilgrims from Novi Sad [en Serbie] with an abbot ». For their safety, they locked themselves inside after masked men “stormed the Banjska monastery in an armored vehicle, and forced the gate”.
“An attack on Kosovo”
The prime minister had previously criticized an attack “led by professionals, masked and equipped with heavy weapons. We condemn this criminal and terrorist attack”he wrote on social networks. “Organized crime, with financial and logistical support from Belgrade officials, is attacking our country. »
“It’s an attack on Kosovo”added the president, Vjosa Osmani. “These attacks prove, if it were still necessary, the destabilizing power of criminal gangs, organized by Serbia, which have been destabilizing Kosovo and the region for a long time”she wrote in a statement, calling on Kosovo’s allies to support the country “in its efforts to establish peace and order and preserve sovereignty over the entire Republic of Kosovo”. The United States Ambassador to Kosovo condemned the attack which “the perpetrators must and will be held accountable and brought to justice”.
Serbia, supported in particular by its Russian and Chinese allies, refuses to recognize the independence of its former province, whose population of 1.8 million inhabitants, overwhelmingly of Albanian origin, includes a Serbian community of around 120,000 people, who live mainly in northern Kosovo. Since a conflict which left 13,000 dead, mostly Kosovar Albanians, relations between the two former enemies have gone from crisis to crisis.
Northern Kosovo is the scene of recurring unrest, and tension there suddenly increased in May when the Kosovar authorities decided to appoint Albanian mayors in four municipalities with a Serbian majority. More than 30 soldiers from KFOR, the force led by NATO in Kosovo, were injured at the end of May in clashes with Serbian demonstrators.
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The international community has repeatedly urged both parties to de-escalate, and stressed that the accession to the European Union of Belgrade and Pristina could be jeopardized by these renewed violence. Ten days ago, the latest attempts at talks between the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, and the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, failed after just a few hours.
The Serbian side wishes, as a prerequisite for any discussion, to obtain a form of association of Serbian communities in the North, while the Kosovar side has as a prerequisite recognition by Belgrade of the independence of Kosovo.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week, the Serbian president accused the West of hypocrisy, arguing that recognition of Kosovo was based on the same arguments Russia used to invade Ukraine.