Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic assassinated in north Mitrovica

Frederick Owens
January 17, 2018

Under the auspices of the European Union, following pressure from the worldwide community, Kosovo and Serbia have been trying to normalise ties some 20 years since the start of the bloody war that claimed 13,000 lives, mostly ethnic Albanians.

PRISTINA/BELGRADE (Reuters) - Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic, who was standing trial over the killings of ethnic Albanians during the 1998-99 war, was shot dead on Tuesday in what Serbia called an act of terrorism.

Oliver Ivanovic was shot in the chest at point blank range outside his party's headquarters in the city of Mitrovica in Kosovo.

The north of Kosovska Mitrovica, predominantly populated by Serbs, has been sealed off by the police, and Kosovo media say that four bullets were fired at Ivanovic.

In a 2016 ruling that stunned many of his contacts in the western diplomatic community, Mr Ivanovic was convicted of war crimes, but the verdict was later quashed and a retrial ordered.

A leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo was gunned down yesterday in broad daylight, an attack that raised ethnic tensions in the Balkans and prompted the suspension of EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

Meanwhile Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has convened an urgent meeting of the national security council, after which he will speak to the press. He was taken to a hospital but doctors failed to revive him.

Ivanovic served as a member of Serbia's government from 2008 to 2012, where he was, in spite of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, state secretary of the Ministry for Kosovo.

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Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and the government in Pristina "strongly" condemned the assassination, as did United States and United Nations representatives in Kosovo.

Mitrovica - in northern Kosovo - is split, with the south run by Kosovo Albanians.

Senior politicians in Tirana have reacted today after the murder of the Serb politician, Oliver Ivanovic in Kosovo.

Serbian officials dismissed the accusations against Ivanovic and said the process against him was staged.

The Serb government official in charge of Kosovo, Marko Djuric, was in Brussels heading the delegation due to hold talks with Kosovo Albanians on Tuesday.

The Kosovo War of 1998-1999 between the ethnically Kosovar Albanian forces and the former Yugoslavia, then consisting of Serbia and Montenegro, ended after the UN-backed worldwide intervention following NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia's forces.

After the assassination, the Belgrade delegation walked out.

Some 40,000-50,000 ethnic Serbs live in northern Kosovo, resisting integration with the rest of the mainly ethnic Albanian country.

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