Gunman kills 13, including two-year-old, in Serbia

’Good neighbour’ goes on murder spree in village south of Belgrade before wounding himself

Police officers pictured  in the village of Velika Ivanca, about 40km southwest of Belgrade, where a gunman shot dead   13 people, including his mother and son, in an early-morning rampage today. Photograph: Marko Djurica/Reuters

Police officers pictured in the village of Velika Ivanca, about 40km southwest of Belgrade, where a gunman shot dead 13 people, including his mother and son, in an early-morning rampage today. Photograph: Marko Djurica/Reuters

Tue, Apr 9, 2013, 15:06

A veteran of the 1990s Balkan wars shot dead 13 people, including his mother, son and a two-year-old child in a dawn rampage through a small village in central Serbia today.

Ljubisa Bogdanovic allegedly shot his son dead with a pistol in their home in the village of Velika Ivanca near Belgrade, injured his wife and then killed 12 others, including a two-year-old boy, in four nearby homes before dawn today, police officials said.

He then turned the gun on himself as police closed in and remains in a Belgrade hospital with nine gunshot wounds to his head, the Interior Ministry said.

Local media reported that most of the victims were the gunman's "close relatives," and all were shot in the head.

Serbian police chief Milorad Veljovic said 12 people were killed immediately and one person died in a Belgrade hospital. The man and his wife were both severely injured by the shootings and another person was also injured, a hospital spokeswoman said.

"We are all caught by surprise," Mr Veljovic told reporters. "Most of the victims were shot while asleep." He said the motive for the killings was unclear. The suspect had lost his job last year and fought as a Serb soldier in the war in Croatia in 1992, he said.

Police said the man had no known history of mental illness.

“He knocked on the doors, and as they were opened he just fired a shot,” said villager Radovan Radosavljevic. “He was a good neighbour and anyone would open their doors to him. I don’t know what happened.”

Neighbour Milovan Kostadinovic said the suspected killer was caught by a police patrol while on the way to his house. "If they didn't stop him, he would have wiped us all out," Mr Kostadinovic said, standing in front of his two-story, red tile- roofed house - one of a dozen modest homes that make up the village, which is located on a lush green hill covered with fruit trees. "He shot himself when police stopped him."

Mr Kostadinovic's wife Stanica said the man's father had hanged himself when he was a young boy and his uncle had a history of mental illness.

Although such shootings are rare in Serbia, weapons are readily available, mostly from the 1990s wars in the Balkans. Initial reports said the suspect had a license for the handgun.

Police blocked off the village while forensic teams and investigators in white protective robes took evidence from homes where the shootings took place.

Serbian prime minister Ivica Dacic said the killings should serve as a warning for the government to pay more attention to gun control laws and other social problems facing the country, which is still reeling from the wars.

Serbia's last large shooting spree occurred in 2007, when a 39-year-old man gunned down nine people and injured two others in an eastern village.

Agencies