Ernesa Shala is a JURIST staff correspondent in Kosovo and a recent graduate of the University of Pristina Faculty of Law. She files this dispatch from Pristina.
In the early morning of September 24, 2023, the peaceful village of Banjska near Kosovo’s Serbian border was a target of terrorist attacks which left one Kosovo Police officer dead, one with severe injuries and another with relatively minor injuries. The attacks were the first attacks in the area in several months.
Around 03:00, the police arrived in Banjska where a blockade of the road by two trucks had been reported. Upon arriving at the scene, police officers were attacked from several different positions with “an arsenal of firearms, including hand grenades and shoulder-fired missiles” according to reports. The terrorist group is said to have numbered approximately 30 individuals who then fled and hid in the Banjska Monastery in Zvecan, where they sought refuge while continuing their attacks on the police.
In a tweet, the Diocese of Raska-Prizren said that the gunmen stormed inside the monastery, where priests and pilgrims locked themselves inside the monastery’s temple for safety.
In a statement to the media, Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti declared that ” this is a professional terrorist formation which prepared this attack”. He also stated that “this is a mercenary structure which is financially supported by Belgrade”.
As a result of active shooting between the two parties that went on for several hours, 3 gunmen were killed and 4 arrested. Meanwhile the police are investigating the escape of the rest of the terrorists in case they infiltrated the pilgrims in the monastery.
After the Kosovo police surrounded the monastery, Minister of Internal Affairs Xhelal Sveçla said that the police had discovered an extraordinary amount of heavy explosive infantry weapons, logistics, food and equipment for barricades, enough for several hundred other attackers.
President Vjosa Osmani has declared Monday a day of state mourning in honor of policeman Afrim Bunjaku, who was killed in the attack today in the early hours of the morning.
Kosovo is left in shock by these terrifying events. The citizens, state officials and international actors demand justice and a comprehensive investigation into the motives of this atrocious act. As the nation grieves the loss of one of its protectors, Kosovo remains resolute in its commitment to maintaining peace and security within its borders.
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