Eight dead in second Serbia mass shooting, suspect arrested (Video)
A man suspected of killing at least eight people in Serbia has been arrested following a massive manhunt, leaving the country reeling from its second mass shooting in just two days.
The latest shooting happened late on Thursday night when an attacker opened fire in the village of Dubona, about 60 kilometers (about 37 miles) southeast of the Serbian capital Belgrade, Serbian media reported.
He then fled the scene, before later opening fire in two other villages, Mali Orasje and Sepsin.
More than 600 members of Serbian Special Forces were deployed to search for the suspect, according to the public broadcaster RTS, with authorities deploying helicopters and thermal imaging cameras. All special police units were engaged, including an anti-terrorism unit, helicopter unit, and police forces from the cities of Belgrade and Smederevo.
The suspect – identified by authorities as a 21-year-old male named Uros B – was arrested on Friday morning. Serbian police confiscated four hand grenades from the home where the suspect was hiding, according to RTS.
The Interior Ministry confirmed to CNN that they are treating this incident as an act of domestic terrorism, but did not specify more details.
A police officer and his sister were among those killed, according to local media.
Milos Stanisavljević, a local resident, left his house in Sepsin during the night to see what was happening outside. The police mistook him for the shooter and arrested him. He was later released without charge.
“My family stayed in the house. My child was sleeping”, Stanisavljevic told CNN. He described how police swept through the town, checking each house one by one. “It was dark and we didn’t know where (the shooter) was hiding”. “I was so scared”, he said.
On Wednesday, Serbia was rocked by news of a 13-year-old boy opening fire on classmates at a school in the capital Belgrade. That shooting left at least eight children dead, along with a security guard.
Serbia’s president Aleksander Vucic expressed his condolences to the victims of the two attacks and pledged that the government will make urgent changes in weapon legislation.
“We are united in pain and sorrow”, Vucic told reporters at a press conference on Friday morning. “This is an attack on all our country and every citizen feels it”.
He announced that Serbia will hire 1,200 new police officers in the next six months to bolster security in schools, and pledged to introduce tougher gun control laws.
Among the proposed changes were stricter conditions for people to purchase weapons, doubling fines for people found breaking the law, requiring hunters to go through annual checks and a national gun buyback program for those who can’t fulfil the tougher conditions.
Until this week, mass shootings were rare in Serbia, despite the country’s high rate of gun ownership. Serbia has the highest level of civilian gun ownership in Europe, and the fifth-highest in the world – a legacy of years of conflict in the 1990s.