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8 Fatally Shot in Serbian Town Day after 9 Killed at School

8 Fatally Shot in Serbian Town Day after 9 Killed at School

Friday, 05 May 2023 12:00 AM EDT

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A shooter killed at least eight people and wounded 13 in a drive-by attack late Thursday in Serbia's second such mass killing in two days, state television reported.

The attacker shot randomly at people near the town of Mladenovac, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital, RTS reported early Friday. Police were looking for a 21-year-old suspect who fled after the attack, the report said.

The shooting came a day after a 13-year-old boy used his father’s guns to kill eight fellow students and a guard at a school in Belgrade.

The bloodshed sent shockwaves through a Balkan nation scarred by wars but unused to mass murders.

Though Serbia is awash with weapons left over from the wars of the 1990s, mass shootings are extremely rare. Wednesday's school shooting was the first in the country's modern history. The last mass shooting before this week was in 2013, when a war veteran killed 13 people in a central Serbian village.

Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic called Thursday's drive-by shootings “a terrorist act,” state media reported.

Hundreds of special police and helicopter units, as well as ambulances, were sent to the area, which has been sealed off as police search for the attacker.

No other details were immediately available, and police had not issued any statements.

Earlier Thursday, Serbian students, many wearing black and carrying flowers, filled streets around the school in central Belgrade as they paid silent homage to slain peers. Thousands laid flowers, lit candles and left toys to commemorate the nine victims.

The tragedy also sparked a debate about the general state of the nation following decades of crises and conflicts whose aftermath have created a state of permanent insecurity and instability, along with deep political divisions.

Authorities on Thursday moved to boost gun control, as police urged citizens to lock up their guns and keep them away from children.

The government ordered a two-year moratorium on short-barrel guns, tougher control of people with guns and shooting grounds and tougher sentences for people who enable minors to get hold of guns.

A registered gun owner in Serbia must be over 18, healthy and have no criminal record. Weapons must be kept locked and separately from ammunition.

The teen had planned the attack for a month, drawing sketches of classrooms and making lists of children he planned to kill, police said on Wednesday.

They said the boy, who had visited shooting ranges with his father and apparently had the code to his father’s safe, took two guns from the safe where they were stored together with bullets to carry out the attack.

The shooting on Wednesday morning in Vladislav Ribnikar primary school also left seven people hospitalized — six children and a teacher. One girl who was shot in the head remains in life-threatening condition, and a boy is in serious condition with spinal injuries, doctors said on Thursday morning.

The children killed were seven girls and one boy. One of the girls was a French citizen, France’s foreign ministry said.

Authorities set up a helpline to help people cope the tragedy, and hundreds donated blood for the wounded victims. A three-day mourning period started Friday morning.

Serbian teachers’ unions announced protests and strikes to warn about a crisis in the school system and demand changes. Authorities shrugged off responsibility, with some officials blaming Western influence.

Police have not given any motive for the boy's actions. Upon entering his school, he first killed the guard and three students in the hallway. He then went to the history classroom where he shot a teacher before turning his gun on the students.

He then unloaded the gun in the school yard and called police himself, although they had already received an alert from a school official. When he called, he told duty officers he was a “psychopath who needs to calm down,” police said.

Police identified the shooter as Kosta Kecmanovic, and authorities have said he is too young to be charged and tried. He has been placed in a mental institution, while his father has been detained on suspicion of endangering public security because his son got hold of the guns.

“I think we are all guilty. I think each one of us has some responsibility, that we allowed some things we should not allow,” said Zoran Sefik, a Belgrade resident, during Wednesday evening’s vigil near the school.

Jovan Lazovic, another Belgrade resident, said he was not surprised: “It was a matter of days when something like this could happen, having in mind what is happening in the world and here,” he said.

Gun culture is widespread in Serbia and elsewhere in the Balkans: The region has among the highest numbers of guns per capita in Europe. Guns are often fired into the air at celebrations and the cult of the warrior is part of national identities.

Experts have repeatedly warned of the danger posed by the number of weapons in a highly divided country like Serbia, where convicted war criminals are glorified and violence against minority groups often goes unpunished. They also note that decades of instability stemming from the conflicts of the 1990s, as well as ongoing economic hardship, could trigger such outbursts.

Dragan Popadic, a psychology professor at Belgrade University, told The Associated Press that the school shooting has exposed the level of violence present in society and caused a deep shock.

“People suddenly have been shaken into reality and an ocean of violence that we live in, how it has grown over time and how much our society has been neglected for decades,” he warned. “It is as if flashlights have been lit over our lives and we can no longer mind our own business.”

___

AP journalist Sabina Niksic contributed from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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- A shooter killed at least eight people and wounded 13 in a drive-by attack late Thursday in Serbia's second such mass killing in two days, state television reported.The attacker shot randomly at people near the town of Mladenovac, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of...
serbia shootings belgrade mladenovac guns
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Friday, 05 May 2023 12:00 AM
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