It is still not possible to enter or leave the village of Banjska, in the municipality of Zvečan in northern Kosovo and Metohija, after a conflict occurred yesterday in which three Serbs and a member of the so-called Kosovo Police were killed, following an attempt by Serbs to block the road in that village.
As the policeman at the checkpoint at the entrance to the village told Tanjug, forensic teams are inside the village and only after the investigation is completed will the situation normalize.
All three entrances to Banjska village, from the direction of Zvečan, Zubina Potok and the main Kosovska Mitrovica-Leposavić road, are blocked, Tanjug reported.
The surrounded monastery, the clashes, the dead
A member of the Kosovo police and three gunmen, whom authorities in Belgrade have confirmed to be Serbs, were killed during the siege of the Serbian Orthodox monastery in the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo. While Pristina and Belgrade exchange accusations, international officials are calling for an immediate end to the conflict and a return to dialogue, which has not seen much progress in all these years.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti says the government is dealing with “the terrorists backed by official Belgrade,” while Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić accuses Kurti that “his only goal is to drag Serbia into a conflict with NATO.”
Authorities in Pristina say that six people suspected of “serious crimes against the constitutional order and security of the Republic of Kosovo” have been arrested, the Special Prosecutor’s Office in Pristina announced.
The conflict in Banjska Monastery began after a police patrol was attacked in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, according to Pristina, and policeman Afrim Bunaku was killed and two other policemen were injured.
Pristina claims that the attackers then hid in the Banjska monastery so that Kosovo police would then surround the Serbian Orthodox Church building in search of the attackers. Kosovo Interior Minister Xelal Svecla described the action as a ” clearance operation.”
About 30 armed men reportedly barricaded themselves there at one point.
Kosovo police announced Sunday evening that in exchange of fire, “three attackers were killed” and that a “large quantity of weapons” had been found and seized.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti attributed the raid to “Serbian-sponsored criminals,” saying they were “professionals, with military and police careers and experience financed and encouraged by Belgrade.”
Serbian President Vučić reacted, blaming Kurti for “provocations.” While describing the death of the Kosovo police officer as “absolutely reprehensible”, he said that Kurti bore responsibility for the incident.
He added that Kurti was “the only one to blame, the only one who wants conflicts and war. No other person wants conflicts and war.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned what he called the “hideous attack” and said those responsible must be brought to justice.
Kosovo’s foreign minister, Donika Gervalla-Schwarz, criticised Borrell’s statement, saying it did not express support for the police nor use the word “terrorists” to describe the attackers.
It comes after the latest EU-mediated talks collapsed last week, with Borrell blaming Kurti for failing to set up the association of Serb-majority municipalities which would give them more autonomy.
The attack and ensuing exchange of fire marks one of the gravest escalations in Kosovo for years, following months of mounting tensions and stalling talks between the government in Pristina and Serbia. The attack came more than a week after talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo centred on improving ties failed to make a breakthrough during EU-mediated negotiations in Brussels.
The EU has been trying for years to resolve the long-running dispute between the Balkan neighbours that has soured relations since their war more than two decades ago.
According to the latest information, the Kosovo police killed three attackers. Two were arrested, as well as four people who were found with illegal radio communication equipment, and who are suspected of being connected to the group.
The Prosecutor’s Office announced that the on-site investigation is continuing and that those arrested are being charged with serious crimes against the constitutional order and security, i.e. violating the constitutional order and preparing terrorist acts.
Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Foreign Minister, Ivica Dačić have met with the Russian ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, to discuss the current situation in North Kosovo.
(Danas, BBC News in Serbian, N1, 25.09.2023)
This post is also available in: Italiano