Minister: Killing of Gendarme is act of terrorism

BELGRADE -- Serbian Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović has announced that he ordered "strengthening the police force presence" in a part of the Ground Safety Zone.

(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)

The zone extends along the administrative line between Kosovo and central Serbia, and the announcement came after a member of the Serbian police (MUP) Gendarmerie unit was shot and killed there early on Thursday.

The officer, Stevan Sinđelić, was seriously wounded by unknown attackers, believed to be timber thieves from Kosovo. He later succumbed to his wounds in Belgrade.

The incident happened in the vicinity of the village of Merdare, near the administrative line.

Late on Wednesday, a police patrol from the nearby town of Kuršumlija caught a large group of ethnic Albanians cutting down trees in the region of the Orlovac village. "After the police started performing their duty, several people opened fire at them, and one ethnic Albanian was wounded in the exchange of fire," Tanjug said.

According to a MUP statement issued on Thursday, Sinđelić was shot in the head while securing the scene of the previous incident. One of the attackers was also shot dead.

Stefanović condemned in the strongest terms the murder of the Gendarmerie officer and the attack on the police.

"I ordered strengthening the police force presence in this part of the Ground Safety Zone to protect the lives of police officers, the local population and vital interests of our country," Stefanović told Tanjug.

He said that Serbia "will not tolerate terrorist attacks on its territory" and the police "will respond with force to any attack."

Stefanović expressed condolences to the family of the murdered policeman and stressed that he would request that "perpetrators of this terrorist act be found and most severely punished."