Kosovo police surround 30 gunmen in monastery after officer shot


Security forces have surrounded at least 30 armed gunmen hours after a police officer was shot dead in Kosovo, the country’s prime minister says.

Albin Kurti said the group was in a monastery in the northern village of Banjska and urged them to surrender.

Mr Kurti has accused Serbia of backing what he called a “terrorist attack” that also injured another officer.

Tensions have run high in Kosovo, after violent clashes followed a disputed local election in May.

EU-mediated political talks designed to stabilise the situation have stalled.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Serbia – along with Belgrade’s key allies China and Russia – does not recognise it.

Many Serbs consider it the birthplace of their nation. But of the 1.8 million people living in Kosovo, 92% are ethnic Albanians and only 6% are ethnic Serbs.

Sunday’s shooting happened at about 03:00 (01:00 GMT), after police said they arrived in Banjska, near the border with Serbia, where a blockade had been reported.

Officers were attacked from several different positions with “an arsenal of firearms, including hand grenades and shoulder-fired missiles”, they said in a statement.

“We can see armed people in uniforms…they are firing on us and we are firing back,” Kosovo police official Veton Elshan told AFP news agency by phone from Banjska.

The Serbia Orthodox Church confirmed that gunmen had stormed a monastery in the village, located in Leposavic, where pilgrims from the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad were staying.

The prime minister held a press conference on Sunday hours after accusing organised crime with political, financial and logistical support from Belgrade of “attacking our country”.

Mr Kurti added that the perpetrators and those who issued their orders would be punished.

Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani said the incident, “orchestrated by Serbian criminal gangs”, was an attack on law and order and “against the sovereignty of the Republic of Kosovo”.

She condemned the “open aggression of Serbia towards Kosovo” and called on the country’s allies to support Kosovo in establishing law and order.

Ms Osmani urged people to remain united and expressed her confidence in Kosovo’s police.

Serbia has not commented on the incident.

Unrest engulfed northern Kosovo in May after Kosovo Albanian mayors were installed in majority-Serb areas, after Serb residents boycotted local polls.

Nato deployed an additional 700 troops to Kosovo to deal with unrest in the northern town Zvecan following the elections.

Some 30 Nato peacekeepers and more than 50 Serb protesters were hurt in the ensuing clashes.

The latest EU-mediated talks collapsed last week, with the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell blaming Mr Kurti for failing to set up the association of Serb-majority municipalities which would give them more autonomy.__BBC.com