"Blast in south classic act of terrorism"

PREŠEVO -- Interior Minister Ivica Dačić says that the explosion in Preševo where a woman and an ethnic Albanian child were injured was "a classic act of terrorism.“

The site of the blast (Tanjug)
The site of the blast (Tanjug)

One person has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling arms from Kosovo.

Dačić said that the suspect, Cenan Mehmeti, had been arrested for attempting to smuggle arms across the administrative line with Kosovo, adding that the hunt was on for a further three suspects.

Dačić revealed that key organizers of the smuggling are ethnic Albanians Lulzim Ibisi, Sadet Nuhiu and Godur Dalipi. Serbian police (MUP) are currently searching for them.

MUP also announced that its officers found a large stash of weapons and explosives in Ibisi's house. He is a member of the so-called Gnjilane Group.

It was announced earlier that Gendarmes had seized large quantities of hand grenades, bomb timers, guns and pistols at various locations during the day.

On a visit to the block of 16 apartments outside which the explosive was detonated, Dačić said that the police would undertake all measures to maintain law and order in the south of Serbia and the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ) near the administrative line with Kosovo, and protect the lives of all citizens in the region, regardless of ethnicity.

“This terrorist act has ended the debate as to whether the events in southern Serbia are terrorism or not. The state needs to cut off the weapons channels of terrorist groups and eliminate any possibility of new terrorist acts,“ the minister stressed.

He said that the Gendarmerie had launched an operation this morning, the details of which he would be revealing at a press conference in Vranje.

“The police won’t be harassing members of the public, but will be taking severe measures against those involved in terrorism, in bringing arms into the south of Serbia, residing there temporarily, and then heading off to Kosovo or Macedonia,“ said Dačić.

The duty District Court investigative judge in Vranje, Staniša Mihajlović, also said that last night’s explosion was “probably a terrorist act.“

He said that the explosives used had been particularly powerful and that the police would soon be establishing exactly what kind had been used.

After the inquest, Mihajlović said that the force of the explosion had caused considerable material damage to the entrance to the building, as well as to neighboring buildings.

The judge said that the bomb had gone off in a building owned by the army and police.

Sabit Sahiti from the Preševo Health Center said that the injured were being looked after and that they had sustained leg and arm injuries, probably caused by flying bits of glass, and that they had been transferred to Vranje.

Sahiti confirmed that the two casualties’ injuries were not life-threatening, but that they were in shock.

The neighborhood in question is populated mainly by Serbs. The police conducted an investigation during the night with MUP Gendarmerie officers in attendance too.

"The building near the railway station in Preševo where the explosion occurred last night, has been secured and special anti-sabotage teams are establishing whether any explosives are left over,“ said the duty District Court investigative judge in Vranje, Staniša Mihajlović.

MUP Serbia told Tanjug that it had been confirmed that the blast had occurred outside a residential building housing Serbs, predominantly the families of police and Gendarmerie officers.

The region where the town and two other municipalities - Bujanovac and Medveđa - are situated is home to the largest ethnic Albanian population in Serbia outside of Kosovo.

This incident comes after last week's attack on a Genadarmerie patrol near Bujanovac.