Belgrade shooting: Huge police operation after Serbia school attack

Source: BBC

At least eight students and a security guard are dead after a shooting at a school in Serbia’s capital Belgrade.

Another six pupils and a teacher were injured in the attack and have been taken to hospital, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Police arrested a 14-year-old student at the Vladislav Ribnikar school in central Belgrade in connection with Wednesday morning’s attack.

The suspect is alleged to have used his father’s gun, officials said.

An investigation into the motives behind the incident is under way.

Officers in helmets and bulletproof vests cordoned off the area around the school, located in the central Vracar neighbourhood, shortly after 08:40 local time (06:40 GMT).

“The police sent all available patrols immediately to the spot and arrested a suspected minor – a seventh grade student who is suspected of firing several shots from his father’s gun in the direction of students and school security,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

“All police forces are still on the ground working intensively to shed light on all the facts and circumstances that led to this tragedy,” it added in a later message.

The sounds of crying parents could be heard on the streets around the school hours after Wednesday morning’s shooting. Some of them still do not know if their children are alive and told the BBC they were angered that the police haven’t given them more information.

“Please tell us anything”, some pleaded with the officers on the ground.

Others were calling every hospital and doctor in Belgrade they know to see if their child is being treated there.

“She has long hair and black jeans”, one mother was heard repeating over her phone.

Police have asked parents who haven’t heard from their children to go to a nearby police station for further information. 

Two 13-year-old boys and one girl who were shot have been transferred to a local hospital in Tirsova.

The director of the clinic, Dr Sinisa Ducic, told state broadcaster RTS that the boys were stable, telling reporters that they had suffered gunshot wounds to their lower extremities.

“They are being monitored and receiving therapy,” he added.

But he said the girl had suffered a serious head injury and was undergoing an operation.

Milan Milosevic, the father of one of the pupils at the school, said his daughter was in the class where the gun was fired and managed to escape.

“[The boy] first shot the teacher and then he started shooting randomly,” Milosevic told broadcaster N1.

“I saw the security guard lying under the table. I saw two girls with blood on their shirts. They say he [the shooter] was quiet and a good pupil. He recently joined their class.”

“I saw kids running out from the school, screaming. Parents came, they were in panic. Later I heard three shots,” one student told the Serbian state broadcaster RTS.

Milan Nedeljkovic, mayor of the central Vracar district where the school is located, said doctors were fighting to save the teacher’s life.

Mass shootings are comparatively rare in Serbia, which has very strict gun laws, but gun ownership in the country is among the highest in Europe.

The western Balkans are awash with hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons following wars and unrest in the 1990s. In 2019, it was estimated that there are 39.1 firearms per 100 people in Serbia – the third highest in the world, behind the US and Montenegro.

In the deadliest shooting since then, Ljubisa Bogdanovic killed 14 people in the central village of Velika Ivanca in 2013, and Nikola Radosavljevic killed nine and wounded five in the eastern village of Jabukovac in July 2007.

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