(Mladenovac) Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced Friday a vast disarmament plan after two killings committed in less than 48 hours in the small Balkan country, where weapons circulate massively.
The two shootings in which a total of 17 people died horrified the Serbs. Their president has promised to drastically reduce the number of legally held weapons and seize those illegally held in a massive operation that will lead to the “almost complete disarmament of Serbia”.
“This is an attack on our entire country and all citizens feel it,” the head of state said during an address to the nation.
Vucic’s pledge comes after a man was arrested on Friday on suspicion of killing eight people and injuring at least 14 others.
This second shooting, occurring in a country in shock after Wednesday’s massacre in a school in Belgrade, took place around midnight in three villages near Mladenovac, about sixty kilometers south of the capital. A 21-year-old suspect with an automatic weapon opened fire on the victims from a moving car, according to public television RTS.
A long hunt ensued, mobilizing around 600 law enforcement officers, including members of a special anti-terrorist unit. “Following an extensive manhunt, members of the Interior Ministry arrested U.B., born in 2002,” the Interior Ministry announced.
“He is suspected of having killed […] eight people and injured fourteen others”, according to the same source, which specifies that all the injured people are hospitalized.
Authorities said the suspect was arrested near the town of Kragujevac in central Serbia, about 90 km from the scene of the shooting.
The man was found at the home of a relative after taking a taxi driver hostage who then alerted the authorities, according to President Vucic.
Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic called the incident a “terrorist act”.
The tragedy came less than two days after the worst mass shooting in a school in Serbia’s recent history. A 13-year-old student on Wednesday killed nine people, including eight children and a guard, at a school in central Belgrade.
These shootings sowed fear. Thousands of residents turned out at makeshift memorial sites to pay their respects to the victims. Others lined up to donate blood.
The second incident began when the assailant fired at people in the playground of a school in the village of Dubona, killing several people, including an off-duty policeman and his sister.
He then shot people in two other villages, Malo Orasje and Sepsin, before fleeing, according to RTS.
The media report that the victims are mostly young people.
“We heard gunshots in the evening, but I thought it was fireworks, children having fun. I couldn’t even imagine such a thing was happening,” Dubona resident Zvonko Mladenovic told AFP.
He explained that his cousin’s granddaughter was among the victims. “She came to visit her grandfather. That’s where the kids were hanging out and… she was shot in the head,” Mladenovic said. “First the kids in Belgrade and now this. »
Slobodan Nikolic, another Dubona resident, said a group of young people were sitting on a bench and singing ahead of the shooting. An AFP photographer saw traces of blood around a bench in the village.
Worried relatives gathered outside a medical center in Belgrade, where at least eight of those injured were hospitalized, according to NA television.
As a result of the school shooting, Serbia begins three days of national mourning on Friday at a time when people normally celebrate the arrival of spring by storming cafe terraces and parks.
Mass killings are extremely rare in Serbia and Aleksandar Vucic lamented “one of the most difficult days in the contemporary history” of the country.
A large number of firearms have been circulating in the Balkans since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the bloody wars of the 1990s.
Some 765,000 weapons, including more than 232,000 pistols, are legally registered in the country of less than seven million people where shooting ranges are popular.
In April 2013, a villager shot and killed 13 people, including family members and neighbors, near Mladenovac.