Dubona, Serbia — Serbian police arrested a suspect early Friday after an overnight search for the gunman who killed eight people and wounded at least 14 others near Belgrade, according to Serbia’s interior ministry.
The attack late Thursday was the country’s second mass shooting in two days and the country is still reeling from an attack at a school that killed eight students and a security guard. an official three-day mourning period The shooting of the first was to start from Friday.
According to the Interior Ministry, the suspect in the second shooting was arrested near the town of Kragujevac, about 40 miles south of where the attack began.
Hundreds of police officers went door-to-door searching for the 21-year-old male suspect, according to Serbia’s public broadcaster RTS. Reports said they deployed helicopters and cordoned off the area where they thought he was hiding.
The gunman, who was in a moving vehicle, used an automatic weapon and fled the scene, according to RTS, which said the attack took place around Mladenovac, in the southern part of the capital Belgrade.
Serbia’s Interior Ministry told CNN that the shooting happened at 11 p.m. local time on Thursday. It is unclear how long this lasted.
The RTS said the gunman first opened fire at a school ground in Dabona village, killing a police officer and his sister. The broadcaster said that he then moved to the neighboring villages of Mali Orasje and Sepsin.
In Dubona, a small village in a rural area south of Belgrade where vineyards extend into mountainous terrain, Zlatko Vujic said his 25-year-old nephew was among those killed by the gunman. He said the suspect, whom he knew, worked at a nearby fruit farm.
“He was just a kid,” she said in a trembling voice, referring to the suspect.
Mr Vujicic said the young man’s father is an army officer who served in the Yugoslav wars.
RTS reported that Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gacic called the shooting “a terroristic act”.
The villages where the attack took place are sparsely populated suburbs near the slopes of Mount Kosmaj, on the south-eastern edge of Belgrade. The RTS reported that after initially searching in the dark with thermal imaging cameras, the police began the physical search at dawn.
A day before Thursday’s attack, a seventh-grade student armed with a pistol and a Molotov cocktail diedshot eight children and a security guard at his school in Belgrade, plunging the capital into grief and shocking the nation.
Following that shooting, the Serbian government on Thursday approved a series of measures to tighten gun regulations, including a two-year moratorium on new licenses and increased oversight of shooting ranges. The changes followed suggestions from the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic. On Wednesday, he urged the government to address the roots of the violence.
country’s interior ministry to plead Gun owners are encouraged to ensure that their weapons are locked, unloaded and separated from ammunition. The ministry said it would check through the gun owners’ registry that the weapons were properly stored and seize the weapons or take other action against the owners if they were not.
Serbia has historically had higher levels of gun ownership than other countries – due to its recent history of armed conflict and cultural tradition of gun ownership – but not higher levels of gun violence, according to October 2022 report of the Flemish Peace InstituteAn independent research group.
According to the report, from 2015 to 2019, 125 people were killed in firearms-related homicides in Serbia, a country of nearly seven million people. According to 2018 Small Arms SurveyWith an estimated 39 firearms per 100 people, Serbia ranks third in the world in civilian firearm ownership, after the United States and Yemen.
Serbia has enacted strict rules on firearms since guns became widely available as a result of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Gun owners must have no history of imprisonment and no criminal record in the last four years, must be trained in handling firearms, undergo regular medical examinations and have a secure storage location.
There have been several incidents of mass shootings in Serbia in recent years.
in 2016In the north of the country, a man killed five people in a cafe. in 2015After the marriage of the son, a man killed four people including his wife, new daughter-in-law and her parents.
in 2013In the village of Velika Ivanka near Belgrade, a 60-year-old veteran of the Balkan Wars killed 13 people, including relatives and neighbors. And in July 2007A 38-year-old man killed nine passers-by in the village of Jabukovac in eastern Serbia.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.
continuouslyreported by dunk, and Victoria Kim, Matej Leskovsek And John Yoon Reported from Seoul. Alisa Dogramdzhieva Contributed reporting from Dunk.