Eight people were killed and a suspect arrested after Serbia’s second mass shooting in just two days, in what President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday called a “terrorist attack” as he announced 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.
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.
Vucic, in a sombre national address, said the gunman had been wearing a T-shirt with neo-Nazi symbols, though he gave no further details about the shootings.
The president proposed an array of measures to improve gun control and bolster security in schools.
He suggested a moratorium on gun permits regardless of weapons type, in what he called a “practical disarmament” of Serbia, along with 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, who wore a dark suit.
“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.
RTS said an off-duty policeman and his sister were among those killed.
“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.”
Police used a helicopter, drones and multiple police patrols to hunt down the suspect.
“This is terrible for our country, this is a huge defeat. In two days so many … killed,” said Ivan, a Dubona resident.
Heavily armed police set up a checkpoint in the village of Dubona overnight and searched incoming traffic. Armoured police SUVs and black vans circled the area.
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.