Kosovo: Four killed in shootout between police and gunmen

Kosovar police in armoured vehicles move into village of Banjska following clash with ethnic Serb gunmen

Kosovar police units in armoured vehicles moved in to secure and search a village in north Kosovo on Monday, a day after four people were killed in a shootout there between police and ethnic Serb gunmen in the restive region.

The gunmen stormed the village of Banjska on Sunday, battling police and barricading themselves into a Serbian Orthodox monastery. Police retook the monastery late on Sunday, after three attackers and one police officer were killed.

The armed police units searched houses in the village on Monday, looking for any gunmen who had not fled, a police source told Reuters. The village was still sealed off to journalists on Monday morning.

The attack happened when three police units were dispatched to a bridge at the entrance to the village that two trucks without licence plates had blocked, Kosovo police said.


The responding officers came under fire from weapons that included hand grenades and bombs, authorities said.

The officers managed to push back the attack and took two wounded members of their ranks to a hospital in the city of Mitrovica. One of them was dead on arrival, doctors said.

Police said there were sporadic exchanges of gunfire more than 12 hours later.

Kosovo declared Monday a day of mourning. Flags were at half-mast on all public buildings in the capital Pristina on Monday to mourn the dead officer, Afrim Bunjaku.

It is not clear who the attackers are, nor who is supporting them.

Ethnic Albanians make up a majority of Kosovo’s 1.8 million people. But some 50,000 Serbs in the north of the former Serbian province do not accept Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence and see Belgrade as their capital, more than two decades after a Kosovo Albanian guerrilla uprising against Serbian rule.

Kosovo prime minister Albin Kurti has blamed Serbia for financing and sending armed men to Kosovo.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has denied the allegations blaming Mr Kurti for inciting violence by refusing to form an association of Serb municipalities to give more autonomy to Serbs and by launching frequent police actions in the north.

The European Union (EU) has sponsored dialogue since 2013 seeking to normalise ties between Serbia and Kosovo. Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, spoke to Mr Kurti and Mr Vucic on Sunday.

Tensions have been running high since clashes in northern Kosovo in May when more than 90 Nato peacekeeping soldiers and some 50 Serb protesters were injured in northern Kosovo.

While ethnic Albanians form more than 90 per cent of the population in Kosovo, Serbs are a majority in its northern region and have long demanded the implementation of a EU-brokered 2013 deal to create an association of autonomous municipalities in the area. – Agencies