Authorities in Kosovo said police had regained control of territory around a Serbian Orthodox monastery complex in the mostly Serbian north of the country after a tense standoff following an assault by a “heavily armed” group that led to the death of one police officer and three suspected assailants.
Kosovo authorities reported the death of a police officer, Afrim Bunjaku, who succumbed to injuries sustained during the attack. Authorities further revealed that the armed assailants, numbering around 30, had taken refuge in the Banjska Monastery, where they engaged in a sustained exchange of fire with law enforcement personnel throughout the day on Sunday. Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla confirmed that three of the attackers lost their lives during the operation, while six individuals, suspected to be affiliated with the assailants, were apprehended. Additionally, authorities seized a significant cache of weaponry.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that Kosovar police were in a standoff with some 30 attackers dressed in security — or military-like — uniforms who may have ties to the Orthodox monastery complex in the village of Banjska, where the deadly encounter began around 2:30 a.m. local time, sparking vague accusations of involvement by neighboring bitter rival Serbia.
At the press conference, Kurti once again made serious accusations against Belgrade saying that Serbia’s authorities „financed and orchestrated“ the attack, but also admitted that only after the investigation will it be determined „who police are dealing with“.
„Today is a difficult day for our country,“ said the Prime Minister of Kosovo. He added that attacks by armed groups are still continuing and condemned what he called a „terrorist attack“.
In a speech late on Sunday Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said he was sorry that a police officer was killed, but he blamed the Kosovar leader, saying that ethnic Serbs there “did not want to suffer Kurti’s terror any longer.”
“I do not want to justify the murder of an [ethnic] Albanian policeman in any way, nor can I justify it. It is a reprehensible act and it is something that no one needed,” the Serbian president said. He denied that Belgrade was involved in the overnight incident and said two of those killed were from North Mitrovica, without providing their identities.
Vučić again stated that Serbia would “never” recognize the independence of Kosovo, its former province, “neither formally nor informally.” He did add, however, that Belgrade was willing to talk to Pristina.
Borrell discusses aggression in the north with Vučić and Kurti
In a statement posted on the EU’s official website, Borrell strongly “denounced the aggression that occurred”.
“The High Representative, Borrell, reiterated his call for the aggressors to surrender immediately and also called for the release of pilgrims at the Banjska Monastery. He emphasized the need to restore calm and stability,” the statement declared.
Earlier, the European Union vehemently condemned the assault carried out by an “armed gang” against Kosovo Police officials in the northern region. “All the facts pertaining to the attack must be verified, and those responsible must be brought to justice,” said Borrell.
The EU’s response expressed deep concern that additional innocent lives were endangered due to hostilities surrounding the Banjska Monastery. “These attacks must cease immediately”, Borell added.
The European Union’s Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák, announced on Monday his commitment to focus on advancing the dialogue in the wake of an armed attack against the Kosovo Police in the northern region of the country.
Miroslav Lajčák expressed his deep shock and concern over the attack on Kosovo Police officers in the village of Banjska in Zvecan. He strongly condemned such acts of violence, emphasizing that they are at odds with the fundamental principles of peace and cooperation.
Lajčák stressed that this unfortunate incident underscores the pressing need for dialogue and preventive diplomacy. He highlighted the significance of these approaches during his recent participation in the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he engaged in strategic discussions with American counterparts regarding the region’s path forward.