Kosovo Serb leader shot dead outside party headquarters

Prominent Serb politician and suspected war criminal shot dead outside Kosovo office

Prominent Serb politician and suspected war criminal shot dead outside Kosovo office

A leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo was gunned down yesterday in broad daylight, an attack that raised ethnic tensions in the Balkans and prompted the suspension of EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, whose country now holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said on January 16 that he categorically condemns the murder of Oliver Ivanović, a Serb political leader shot dead in Mitrovica earlier the same day.

Serbian media reported that unknown assailants opened fire on Ivanović in front of the offices of his Citizens' Initiative party.

Ivanovic was one of the key politicians in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, a former Serbian province where tensions remain high a decade after Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

He had been facing a retrial after being convicted of war crimes and sentenced to nine years in prison. Serbia does not recognize that independence.

A spokesman for the European Union said it "strongly condemns" the attack and called on officials "to spare no effort to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice". Ivanovic was transferred to hospital and resuscitated for 45 minutes before doctors confirmed him dead at 9.15 a.m (3.15 a.m. ET).

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Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic convened an emergency meeting of the national Security Council in the wake of the assassination, and the head of the government office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric said the Serbian delegation was suspending technical dialogue with the Kosovo authorities in Brussels and returning to Belgrade.

"For the Serbian state this is considered an act of terrorism", Vucic said afterward, and Belgrade would demand to be included in the investigation.

Kosovo, once the core of the medieval Serbian state, experienced increasing tension between the Serbian and Albanian populations, escalating into a civil war in 1998-99, in which North Atlantic Treaty Organisation intervention ensured the defeat of the Serbs. The conviction was overturned in February previous year. I call on the institutions of Kosovo to investigate this murder at once and with professionalism, in order for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

In 2016, Ivanović was found guilty of ordering crimes against the civilian population in 1999 during the Kosovo War.

Answering a question on how the assassination of Oliver Ivanovic could influence the dialog with Pristina, Juric said: "What can we talk about now?"

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