Zagreb, Sep 25 (EFE).- A tense calm prevailed in Kosovo on Monday after a gun battle between security forces and suspected Serb militants left four people dead in a monastery siege, escalating tensions between the two neighboring countries.
Police reported a prevailing calm in the vicinity of the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Banjska in northern Kosovo, where some 30 armed men, seemingly Kosovo Serbs, had barricaded themselves on Sunday.
On Monday, President Vjosa Osmani declared a national day of mourning in memory of a police officer who lost his life during the shootout, which also claimed the lives of three alleged assailants.
However, the situation in the northern region of Kosovo, primarily inhabited by Serbs, remained tense, with police and armored vehicles blocking access to Banjska.
The Kosovo government classified the incident as a “terrorist attack” that commenced on Sunday morning when armed men opened fire on police officers dispatched to clear a roadblock on a bridge leading to Banjska.
Two trucks without license plates were obstructing access to the village near the Serbian border.
Kosovo authorities stated that the heavily armed men, traveling in several vehicles, sought refuge inside the Serbian Orthodox monastery, prompting security forces to cordon off the area and engage in an intense exchange of gunfire.
The Kosovo State Prosecutor’s Office said at least six alleged assailants were arrested, who will face charges of terrorism and serious crimes.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti confirmed that “the operation against armed terrorists is ongoing” in close collaboration with the Kosovo Force (KFOR), a NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo, and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
In a brief statement posted on social media, Kurti mentioned that the police had seized substantial quantities of arms and ammunition at the site of the shootout.
He also alleged that the attackers had received “political, financial, and logistical support from” neighboring Serbia.
While Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic condemned the murder of the Kosovo police officer, he denied any involvement of his country in the attack.
Vucic accused Kurti of exacerbating the conflict through the consistent oppression and mistreatment of the Kosovo Serb minority.
Kosovo Serbs, who constitute the majority in the border region but are a minority in the rest of Kosovo, have long been a source of tension in the region.
Kosovo, a former Serbian province with a predominantly ethnic Albanian population, unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, a move recognized by more than 100 members of the United Nations but not by Serbia.
Ethnic Albanians constitute over 90 percent of Kosovo’s population.
Serbian media reported that Vucic and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met with the Russian ambassador in Belgrade on Monday, speculating that the discussions centered around the situation in Kosovo, which has heightened regional tensions.
Moscow, a close ally of Serbia, does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.
More than 100 members of the United Nations consider Kosovo an independent nation. Serbia does not recognize it as a sovereign state. EFE