8 shot dead in Serbia town a day after 9 killed at school

BELGRADE: A shooter killed at least eight people and injured 13 in a drive-by filming in a town near Belgrade on Thursday evening, the second such massacre Serbia in two days, state television reported.
The assailant used an automatic weapon to fire randomly at people near the town of Mladenovac, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital, the RTS report said early Friday. Police were looking for the 21-year-old suspect, who fled after the attack, according to the report.
Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic called the shooting “a terrorist act”, according to the report.
Special police and helicopter units have been sent to the area along with ambulances, he added.
No other details were immediately available and police had not released a statement.
A 13-year-old boy used his father’s guns in a school shooting in Belgrade on Wednesday that killed eight of his classmates and a school guard. The bloodshed sent shockwaves through the Balkan nation which was unaccustomed to such mass murder.
Dozens of Serbian students, many of whom wore black and carried flowers, paid silent tribute on Thursday to their comrades killed the day before.
Pupils filled the streets around the school in central Belgrade as they poured in from all over the city. Earlier, thousands of people lined up to lay flowers, light candles and leave toys to commemorate the eight children and a school caretaker who were killed on Wednesday morning.
People cried and hugged outside the school as they stood in front of piles of flowers, small teddy bears, soccer balls. A gray and pink toy elephant was placed near the school fence with messages of grief, and girl’s ballet shoes were hung on the fence.
The Balkan nation is struggling to come to terms with what happened. Although awash in weapons left over from the wars of the 1990s, mass shootings are still extremely rare – and this is the first school shooting in Serbia’s modern history.
The tragedy has also sparked a debate on the general state of the nation after decades of crises and conflicts whose consequences have created a state of permanent insecurity and instability, as well as deep political divisions.
Authorities moved to tighten gun control on Thursday, with police urging citizens to lock up their guns and keep them safe away from children.
Police say the teenager used his father’s weapons to carry out the attack. He had been planning it for a month, drawing sketches of classrooms and making lists of children he planned to kill, police said Wednesday.
The boy, who had visited shooting ranges with his father and apparently had the code for his father’s safe, pulled two guns from the safe where they were stored with the bullets, police said Wednesday.
“The Home Office calls on all gun owners to store their guns with care, locked in safes or cupboards so they are out of the reach of others, especially children,” it said. police said in a statement that also announced tighter checks on gun owners. in the future.
Wednesday morning’s shooting at Vladislav Ribnikar Elementary School also left seven people hospitalized – six children and a teacher. A girl who was shot in the head remains in life-threatening condition and a boy is in serious condition with spinal injuries, doctors said Thursday morning.
To help people cope with the tragedy, authorities announced they were setting up a hotline. Hundreds of people responded to a call to donate blood to injured victims. A three-day mourning period will begin Friday morning.
Serbian teachers’ unions have announced protests and strikes to demand change and warn of a crisis in the school system. Authorities have dismissed their responsibilities, with some officials blaming Western influence rather than a deep social crisis in the country.
The shooter, whom police identified as Kosta Kecmanovic, gave no reason for his actions.
Upon entering his school, Kecmanovic first killed the guard and three students in the hallway. He then went to history class where he shot the teacher before pointing his gun at the students.
Kecmanovic then discharged the weapon into the schoolyard and called the police himself, although they had already received an alert from a school official. When he called, Kecmanovic told officers on duty that he was a “psychopath who needs to calm down,” police said.
Those killed were seven girls, a boy and the school security guard. One of the girls was a French citizen, the French foreign ministry said.
Authorities said Kecmanovic was too young to be charged and tried. He was placed in a mental institution while his father was detained on suspicion of endangering public safety because his son grabbed the guns.
“I think we are all guilty. I think each of us has some responsibility, that we allowed some things that we shouldn’t allow (to happen),” Belgrade resident Zoran Sefik said at the Wednesday evening vigil near school.
Another Belgrade resident, Jovan Lazovic, said he was not surprised: “It was only a matter of days when something like this could happen, bearing in mind what was happening in the world and here,” he said.
The culture of guns is widespread in Serbia and elsewhere in the Balkans: the region is among the first in Europe in the number of guns per capita. Guns are often fired in the air during celebrations and warrior worship is part of the national identity. Yet the last mass shooting was in 2013 when a war veteran killed 13 people in a village in central Serbia.
Experts have repeatedly warned of the danger posed by the number of weapons in a deeply divided country like Serbia, where convicted war criminals are glorified and violence against minority groups often goes unpunished. They also note that decades of instability resulting from the conflicts of the 1990s as well as continuing economic difficulties could trigger such explosions.
“We’ve had too much violence for too long,” psychologist Zarko Trebjesanin told N1 television. “Children copy models. We need to eliminate the negative role models…and create a different value system.”


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