Kosovo police have declared that the monastery where a group of armed men had taken refuge after attacking a police patrol is “under control” following a day of heavy clashes. Four people were killed and several others wounded in the violence, which erupted in the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo on Sunday.
According to Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, the attackers were “professionals, with military and police background” who were financed and motivated by Serbia, which does not recognise Kosovo’s independence. He accused Serbia of supporting “organised crime” and trying to destabilise Kosovo.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic denied any involvement and blamed Kurti for months of “provocations”. He said the three gunmen killed were Kosovo Serbs and expressed condolences to the family of the slain Kosovo police officer. He also criticised the Nato-led KFOR peacekeepers for not intervening sooner.
The incident began around 03:00 local time (01:00 GMT), when a Kosovo police patrol noticed two trucks blocking a bridge near the village of Banjska. As they approached, they were ambushed by gunmen from multiple positions, who also used grenades. One officer was killed and another wounded in the exchange of fire.
The gunmen then fled to a nearby Serbian Orthodox monastery, where they barricaded themselves with armoured vehicles. The monastery residents and pilgrims locked themselves inside for safety. The police surrounded the area and engaged in gun battles with the assailants throughout the day.
By Sunday night, Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla announced that the operation was over and that the territory was under control. He said six people were arrested and a significant number of weapons was seized. He did not say whether those detained took part in the attack.
The Serbian Orthodox Church said the gunmen had left the monastery by night and condemned the violence. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also denounced the “hideous attack” and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
The clash marks one of the gravest escalations in Kosovo for years, and follows months of mounting tension between Kosovo and Serbia over border issues, trade disputes and political interference.