- Serbia reeling from second mass shooting in 2 days
- President Vucic announces tough new gun control measures
- Latest incident took place in village south of Belgrade
- Suspect opened fire after altercation in schoolyard – radio
BELGRADE, May 4 (Reuters) – Police arrested a suspect on Friday after eight people were killed and 14 wounded in Serbia’s second mass shooting in just two days, in what President Aleksandar Vucic called a “terrorist attack” as he proposed tough new gun controls.
The Balkan country was already reeling from a mass shooting on Wednesday, when authorities say a 13-year old boy shot dead nine and wounded seven at a school in Belgrade before turning himself in.
Serbs had just begun three days of mourning on Friday for those victims as news broke of the second shooting, which authorities said began late on Thursday in the village of Dubona, 42 km (26 miles) south of Belgrade.
“This is terrible for our country, this is a huge defeat. In two days so many … killed,” said village resident Ivan.
State broadcaster RTS said the suspect, a young man, had been involved in an altercation in a school yard. He left and then returned with an assault rifle and a handgun, opened fire and continued to shoot at people at random from a moving car.
The suspect also fired at people in two other nearby villages before fleeing, authorities said. Police found him eventually hiding in his grandfather’s house, where they also discovered hand grenades, an automatic rifle and ammunition.
“The suspect U.B., born in 2002, has been apprehended in the vicinity of the city of Kragujevac, he is suspected of killing eight people and wounding 14 overnight,” Serbia’s Interior Ministry said in a statement. An investigation was ongoing.
Police also arrested the suspect’s grandfather and uncle.
Serbian Health Minister Danica Grujicic said many of the wounded had suffered multiple injuries and had undergone surgery, but she added that all were in a stable condition.
In a sombre national address, President Vucic, wearing a dark suit, said the gunman had been wearing a T-shirt with neo-Nazi symbols. He gave no further details about the shootings.
Vucic proposed a moratorium on gun permits regardless of weapon type, in what he called a “practical disarmament” of Serbia that would also include more frequent medical and psychological checks of gun owners.
The government would also hire 1,200 new police officers to improve security in schools, said Vucic.
“There will be justice. These monsters will never see the light of the day, neither the little monster nor the little older monster,” he said, referring respectively to the suspected gunmen from Wednesday and Thursday.
Vucic said he had proposed the reintroduction of the death penalty but said the government was against such a step. In Serbia, the president is largely a ceremonial figure but Vucic wields considerable power as he also heads the ruling party.
RTS said an off-duty policeman and his sister were among those killed on Thursday.
“This is sad, the young policeman is my daughter’s age, born in 1998,” said Danijela, a middle-aged woman in Dubona. “My daughter is taking sedatives, we could not sleep all night. They grew up together.”
The gunman also shot at people in the nearby village of Malo Orasije, according to Zarko Knezevic, a 78-year-old farmer, who said he had heard gunshots there and people running away.
“I don’t know how many of them were running away, there were a lot of young people,” he said.
Serbia has an entrenched gun culture, especially in rural areas, but also strict gun control laws. Automatic weapons are illegal and over the years authorities have offered several amnesties to those who surrender them.
Still, Serbia and the rest of the Western Balkans remain awash with military-grade weapons and ordnance that remained in private hands after the wars of the 1990s.
Reporting by Ivana Sekularac
Editing by Bill Berkrot
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