Serbian police arrested on Friday a gunman suspected of killing eight people and wounding 14 others in a village near Belgrade in the second mass shooting in the country this week.
“The suspect U.B., born in 2002, has been apprehended in the vicinity of the city of Kragujevac, he is suspected of killing eight people and wounding 14 overnight,” the Serbian Interior Ministry said in a statement. It said the investigation was ongoing.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic is expected to address the nation around 10:30 a.m. (0830 GMT).
The shooting in the village of Dubona, near the town of Mladenovac, 42 km (26 miles) south of Belgrade was the second in the Balkan country in just two days.
On Wednesday, a 13-year old boy shot dead nine and injured seven at a school in Belgrade before turning himself in.
According to local media, the suspect in the second shooting was involved in a altercation in a school yard late on Thursday and left but returned with an assault rifle and a handgun. He opened fire and continued to shoot at people at random from a moving car.
State broadcaster RTS reported an off-duty policeman and his sister were among those killed.
Serbian police launched a manhunt, dubbed Operation Whirlwind, for a 21-year-old suspect identified only as U.B.
Around 600 Serbian police, including elite Special Anti-terrorist Unit (SAJ) and Gendarmerie were involved in a manhunt, dubbed Operation Whirlwind, RTS reported.
Inside the village of Dubona, a Reuters witness saw heavily armed police establishing a checkpoint and searching incoming traffic. Armoured police SUVs and black vans circled the area.
“This is sad, the young policeman is my daughter’s age, born in 1998,” said Danijela, a middle-aged woman in Dubona. “My daughter is taking sedatives, we could not sleep all night, they grew up together.”
The wounded had been transported to several local hospitals, the RTS reported. It also said the Health Ministry called people to donate blood for the wounded.
Police officers block the street near the scene of a Thursday night attack in the village of Dubona, some 30 miles south of Belgrade, Serbia, om May 5, 2023.AP
Police used a helicopter, drones and multiple police patrols to hunt down the suspect.
“This is terrible for our state, this is a huge defeat. In two days so many … killed,” said Ivan, a Dubona resident.
NATION IN MOURNING
The Balkan nation begins three days of official mourning on Friday following its first mass school shooting on Wednesday.
The suspected shooter took two of his father’s handguns to kill eight pupils and a security guard in a hallway and history class at their school in the capital Belgrade.
Hundreds of school children with candles and flowers gathered for a vigil on Thursday evening in streets around the school, while churches planned memorial prayers.
Dozens of high school teachers rallied in front of the Education Ministry in downtown Belgrade on Thursday, demanding improvements to school security and the education system.
Serbia has an entrenched gun culture, especially in rural areas, but also strict gun control laws. Automatic weapons are illegal and over the years authorities have offered several amnesties to those who surrender them.
After the school shooting in Belgrade, the Serbian government introduced a two-year ban on the issuing of new gun permits, a revision of existing permits and checks on how gun owners store their arms.
Still, the country, and the rest of Western Balkans, are awash with military-grade weapons and ordnance that remained in private hands after the wars of the 1990s.
Reporting by Ivana Sekularac Editing by Bill Berkrot