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Siege of Kosovo Monastery Ends After Intense Battles

2023-09-24T130029Z_1460666346_RC21F3A1LEJ5_RTRMADP_3_KOSOVO-SERBIA-SHOOTING_2023_09_25_00_18_28

A group of approximately thirty heavily armed men besieged a monastery complex in Kosovo, but the Kosovar authorities report that the situation is now under control.

According to the Kosovar government, at least three attackers were killed, while two others were wounded, and four have been arrested. Minister of Internal Affairs Svecla stated that control was restored after a series of intense gunfights.

However, it remains unclear whether the remaining attackers have fled the area or are still in hiding nearby. Svecla suggested that a significant amount of weapons and explosives were found in the monastery, presumably intended to be distributed among other attackers who would follow the initial group to the monastery.

The siege began with a tragic event: a police officer was killed, and three other officers were wounded. Their current condition is unknown.

According to the police, the attackers initially blocked an access bridge with unregistered heavy vehicles. When the police arrived, the group of men opened fire before retreating to the nearby monastery.

The disputes between Serbia and Kosovo have persisted for a long time. Kosovo was once a province of Serbia but unilaterally declared independence in 2008. While approximately a hundred countries, including the Netherlands, recognize Kosovo as an independent state, Serbia still regards it as a Serbian province. Both countries fought a war in the late 1990s that ended with NATO airstrikes on Serbian targets.

Kosovo has nearly two million inhabitants, with about 90 percent being ethnic Albanians. In the north, approximately 50,000 ethnic Serbs reside, and they do not recognize the Kosovar government and its institutions. Kosovo aspires to join the European Union but has no clear path to membership, mainly because not all EU countries recognize its independence.

The identity of those responsible for the violence remains unclear. Kosovar Prime Minister Kurti and Minister of Internal Affairs Svecla previously claimed that the group consisted of “Serbia-sponsored criminals.” Given the organized nature of the attack, Kurti inferred that they were likely “professionals with military and police backgrounds.”

Tensions escalated earlier this year in May in northern Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs clashed with the police and the NATO peacekeeping force. Dozens of NATO soldiers and Serbian protesters were injured at the time. The cause of the unrest was a dispute over license plates; ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo were required to use Kosovar license plates on their vehicles, which they refused to do.

In March, relations between Kosovo and Serbia appeared to be normalizing after negotiations led by Borrell resulted in an agreement granting ethnic Serbs in Kosovo a form of autonomy.

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