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Eight dead in second Serbia mass shooting, suspect arrested

2023-05-05T10:54:08Z

At least eight people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded in Serbia’s second mass shooting in two days and a suspect was arrested, authorities said on Friday, causing horror in a nation that had just started three days of mourning for victims of the first shootings.

Police arrested a suspect after eight people were killed in Serbia’s second mass shooting in just two days, as President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday responded to what he said was a “terrorist attack” with proposed tough new gun control measures.

The Balkan country was already reeling from a mass shooting on Wednesday, when authorities say a 13-year old boy shot dead nine and wounded seven at a school in Belgrade before turning himself in.

Serbs had just begun three days of mourning on Friday for those victims as news broke of the second incident, which authorities said occurred late on Thursday in the village of Dubona, 42 km (26 miles) south of Belgrade.

“This is terrible for our country, this is a huge defeat. In two days so many … killed,” said Ivan, a resident of Dubona.

State broadcaster RTS said the suspect, a young man, had been involved in an altercation in a school yard. He left and then returned with an assault rifle and a handgun, opened fire and continued to shoot at people at random from a moving car.

“The suspect U.B., born in 2002, has been apprehended in the vicinity of the city of Kragujevac, he is suspected of killing eight people and wounding 14 overnight,” Serbia’s Interior Ministry said in a statement. An investigation was ongoing.

In a sombre national address, Vucic, wearing a dark suit, said the gunman had been wearing a T-shirt with neo-Nazi symbols. He gave no further details about the shootings.

Vucic proposed a moratorium on gun permits regardless of weapons type, in what he called a “practical disarmament” of Serbia that would also include more frequent medical and psychological checks of gun owners.

The government would also hire 1,200 new police officers to improve security in schools, said Vucic.

“There will be justice. These monsters will never see the light of the day, neither the little monster nor the little older monster,” he said, referring respectively to the suspected gunmen from Wednesday and Thursday.

Vucic said he had proposed the reintroduction of the death penalty but said the government was against such a step. In Serbia, the president is largely a ceremonial figure but Vucic wields considerable power as he also heads the ruling party.

RTS said an off-duty policeman and his sister were among those killed on Thursday.

“This is sad, the young policeman is my daughter’s age, born in 1998,” said Danijela, a middle-aged woman in Dubona. “My daughter is taking sedatives, we could not sleep all night. They grew up together.”

Heavily armed police set up a checkpoint in Dubona overnight and searched incoming traffic. They used a helicopter, drones and multiple police patrols to hunt down the suspect.

The gunman also shot at people in the nearby village of Malo Orasije, according to Zarko Knezevic, a 78-year-old farmer, who said he had heard gunshots there and people running away.

“I don’t know how many of them were running away, there were a lot of young people. I think there were five dead from this village,” he said.

Serbia has an entrenched gun culture, especially in rural areas, but also strict gun control laws. Automatic weapons are illegal and over the years authorities have offered several amnesties to those who surrender them.

Still, Serbia and the rest of the Western Balkans remain awash with military-grade weapons and ordnance that remained in private hands after the wars of the 1990s.

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Members of the forensic team inspect the crime scene, in the aftermath of a shooting in Malo Orasje, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Members of the forensic team inspect the crime scene, in the aftermath of a shooting in Malo Orasje, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Security personnel operate, in the aftermath of a shooting, in Dubona, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

A member of the forensic team inspects the crime scene, in the aftermath of a shooting, in Malo Orasje, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Members of an anti-terrorist unit operate, in the aftermath of a shooting, in Dubona, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Police operate a checkpoint, in the aftermath of a shooting, in Dubona, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

A member of security forces operates in a checkpoint during the aftermath of a shooting, in Dubona, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Police operates in a checkpoint during the aftermath of a shooting, in Dubona, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Police operates in a checkpoint during the aftermath of a shooting, in Dubona, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Security forces operate as an ambulance passes through a checkpoint during the aftermath of a shooting, in Dubona, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Security forces operate in a checkpoint during the aftermath of a shooting, in Dubona, Serbia, May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
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