Clashes in northern Kosovo between security forces and gunmen resulted in fatalities. An officer was killed after an attack on police units. Afterwards, around 30 armed men sought protection in a monastery. But by Sunday evening, the authorities said they had regained control of the area. Prime Minister Albin Kurti blamed Serbia for “terrorist attacks” in the Serb-dominated north, a claim Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic rejected.
Riots begin: police under fire
The riots began on Sunday morning and a police patrol was attacked, leaving one police officer dead and another injured. As a result, the police authority reported “the death of three attackers and the detention of four (civilian) people”.
Monastery at the center of the conflict
According to reports from Kosovo, the area around the Banjska monastery, north of Mitrovica, was particularly affected. Around 30 armed people locked themselves there and were surrounded by the police. Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said later in the evening that the situation was now under control after several skirmishes. A number of arrests were made and many weapons were confiscated.
Prime Minister presents evidence
At a media conference, Kurti showed pictures of armed men in military clothing who were in the monastery garden. They are “not civilians,” he emphasized. The diocese announced that “a group of pilgrims” from Novi Sad were staying at the monastery together “with an abbot.” For security reasons, they locked themselves in after “masked people stormed the Banjska monastery with an armored vehicle.”
After the deadly confrontation, Prime Minister Kurti described the incident as a “terrorist attack” and accused the leadership in Belgrade of supporting “organized crime.” Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani saw this as an “attack” on her country by “criminal groups organized by Serbia” and called on allies for support.
Vucic firmly rejects allegations
On Sunday evening, Vucic denied any Serbian involvement in the incidents and claimed the attackers were Kosovo Serbs. He accused Kurti of constantly causing provocations and regretted that some Serbs responded to this.
Background: The ongoing Kosovo conflict
Kosovo, populated predominantly by ethnic Albanians, declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Nevertheless, Serbia continues to consider it one of its provinces. Of the approximately 1.8 million inhabitants of Kosovo, around 120,000 are Serbs, mainly living in the north. Tensions have increased in northern Kosovo in recent months. A turning point was the Pristina government’s decision in May to install Albanian mayors in Serb-dominated municipalities. There were violent clashes in which over 30 NATO KFOR soldiers were injured.