2 Serbians shot in Kosovo on Orthodox Christmas Eve, says Belgrade
11-year-old boy, 21-year-old man shot, wounded by Albanian extremists in southern Kosovo on Christmas Eve, says Serbian Defense Ministry.
A Serbian boy and a young man were shot and wounded Friday in southern Kosovo by Albanian extremists on Orthodox Christmas Eve, said Serbia's Defense Ministry.
"Serbian boys aged 11 and 21 were shot and wounded today by Albanian extremists in Kosovo while preparing for Christmas Eve celebrations," Nemanja Starovic, the ministry's state secretary, said on social media, claiming that Kosovar police let the perpetrators escape.
Starovic claimed that gunshots were fired by a member of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF).
''Gunshots at Serbian youths were fired by a member of the Kosovo Security Force. KSF is an army-like structure set (up) by Kosovo Albanians, essentially illegal to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, but trained and equipped by certain Western countries. To which purpose, murdering Serbian children?'' he said.
The Serbian government's office for Kosovo demanded urgent and decisive action from the international community over the incident.
It said 11-year-old Stefan Stojanovic and 21-year-old Milos Stojanovic were walking on the side of the road and carrying a Christmas tree when their attackers opened fire.
The Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7 for three days under the Gregorian calendar. Orthodox Christian Serbs in Kosovo gather in front of local churches on Christmas Eve to light yule logs before a midnight service.
"They suffered gunshot wounds: The boy was hit in the hand and the other in the shoulder, and by sheer luck they were not (fatally) injured, nor were their lives in danger," the office said, adding that they were being transported to the Clinical Hospital Center in the town of Gracanica, just south of the capital Pristina.
The office argued that the attackers' intent was clearly to kill the Serbian child and young man, adding that local police let the vehicle from which the shots were fired go, though several eyewitnesses saw the vehicle's registration number. Large crowds of local Serbs gathered on the streets after the attack and blocked the road.
"This kind of attack is a direct consequence of the anti-Serb policy of (Kosovo Prime Minister) Albin Kurti, who with his behavior and actions encourages all those who want Serbian blood, even on Christmas. We demand an urgent and decisive reaction from the international community," said the statement.
Kosovar police later announced that a 33-year-old man was detained as a suspect in the attack.
Meanwhile, Kurti praised the Kosovo Police for their quick actions.
''I unequivocally condemn the assault on two Kosova citizens today in Shtërpcë. A suspect has been arrested and will be dealt with promptly and fairly by our justice system. I commend (the) Kosova Police for its quick action and full engagement in ensuring the safety of all, (without) discrimination,'' he said.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that Serbs in Kosovo are not safe even on the Orthodox Holy Night.
''I request the international community to act immediately and bring the culpable to justice. This is another one in the series of dreadful incidents demonstrating the gravity of conditions in which Serbs in Kosovo live every day,'' said Brnabic.
Kosovo, predominantly inhabited by Albanians, broke away from Serbia in 1999 and declared independence in 2008. But Serbia has not recognized the move and sees its former province as part of its territory.
Tensions have been simmering between the two Balkan countries, though they appeared to ease somewhat following the removal of barricades blocking the main border crossing between them.
Earlier, there had been a row about license plates, with the government in Pristina demanding ethnic Serbs surrender Serbian-issued vehicle license plates to replace them with plates issued by Kosovo.
The European Union, NATO and the US have called for de-escalation, while Serbia has requested to deploy its army and police based on a UN resolution.