A group of armed men stormed a Serbian Orthodox monastery in northern Kosovo on September 24.
In his latest announcement Prime Minister Albin Kurti said the terrorist group forced its way inside the monastery, which is now surrounded by the police.
Kosovan police have confirmed that three attackers were killed, and one has been arrested along with other suspects believed to be in possession of communication devices, Reporteri.net writes.
Priests and worshippers from the city of Novi Sad in Serbia are understood to be trapped inside the building.
The Eparchy of Raska and Prizren has released a statement saying that "a group of armed, masked individuals forcibly entered the local monastery using an armoured vehicle, forcibly breaking through the locked gates of the monastery.
“Currently, there is a group of worshippers from Novi Sad, Serbia, trapped inside the monastery, which is now surrounded by security forces,” the statement adds.
Also on September 24, a Kosovan police officer and a border guard were wounded in a shootout in the north, which is inhabited mainly by ethnic Serbs. This was the first major incident after months of efforts from both Kosovo and Serbia to mitigate tensions that arose in late May due to confrontations in the northern region, stemming from unsuccessful local elections.
Commenting on the day’s incidents on X, formerly Twitter, Kurti said the group consists of at least 30 heavily armed people, and claimed it is backed by Serbia.
“The murder & violence in the north is being perpetrated by these men — armed & organised professional forces in armoured vehicles with no license plates. Let me restate: It is not ordinary Kosova Serb citizens but Serbian-state supported troops perpetrating these terrorist attacks,” the Kosovan prime minister wrote. He has announced a meeting of the Security Council of Kosovo.
President Vjosa Osmani also said that the attack was planned, orchestrated and executed by Serbian criminal groups.
According to the Kosovan police, the attack on their officers took place around 02.30 a.m. while officers were performing their regular duties in North Mitrovica. The rapid intervention unit of the border police encountered two unregistered heavy trucks blocking the entrance to the village of Bajnska via a bridge, the police said.
When the police responded, they faced resistance and came under fire from multiple positions, with assailants wielding firearms, including hand grenades and stun guns.
Police units managed to repel the initial attack, allowing for the evacuation of the wounded officers. Despite their efforts, one of the officers succumbed to his injuries upon arrival at the regional hospital in South Mitrovica.
The Kosovo police said that, in collaboration with relevant institutions and justice bodies, they are taking all necessary measures to restore order, ensure public safety and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In a first reaction from Serbia, speaker of the Serbian parliament Vladimir Orlic criticised Kurti for promptly pointing at the Serbs regarding the events in Banjska. Orlic argued that a more judicious approach would involve first understanding the precise sequence of events before making any comments, according to Serbian broadcaster RTS.
Kosovo, predominantly inhabited by ethnic Albanians, unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, following the 1998-99 conflict with Serbian forces, which ended with Nato attacks on Serbian targets.
The latest incident has jeopardised the EU-mediated negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina aimed at enhancing their bilateral relations. These talks had already hit a standstill following the unsuccessful round of discussions on September 14.