Police officers secure the scene where unknown assailants opened fire and killed Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic in front of his office in the northern, Serb-dominated part of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. The Kosovo government has strongly denounced the slaying of a leading Serb politician in northern Mitrovica and says it considers it to be a challenge to "the rule of law". (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)

Leading Kosovo Serb politician shot and killed in Mitrovica

January 16, 2018 - 6:00 am

MITROVICA, Kosovo (AP) — A leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo was shot and killed Tuesday morning, raising ethnic tensions in the region and halting EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia on the day they were due to resume.

Assailants opened fire on Oliver Ivanovic close to the offices of his political party in the Serb-controlled northern city of Mitrovica. He was taken to a hospital but doctors were unable to save him.

The doctors said that Ivanovic received at least five gunshot wounds to his upper torso. The assailants escaped in a car that was later found burned out. Kosovo police sealed off the area of the shooting and were looking for the attackers.

The Serb delegation at EU talks due to start in Brussels Tuesday immediately left to return to Belgrade.

Delegation leader Marko Djuric said that "whoever is behind this attack ... whether they are Serb, Albanian or any other criminals, they must be punished."

Ivanovic, 64, was one of the key politicians in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, a former Serbian province where tensions remain high a decade after it declared independence. Serbia does not recognize the independence of its former province and the killing is likely to raise tensions between ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs in the region.

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called a top state security meeting to discuss the shooting, and was later due to address the public.

In Pristina, the Kosovo government strongly denounced the slaying and said it considers it to be a challenge to "the rule of law and efforts to establish the rule of law in the whole of Kosovo territory."

A Kosovo court convicted Ivanovic of war crimes during the 1998-99 war. That verdict was overturned and a retrial was underway.

Ivanovic was considered a moderate opposition Serb politician. In July, his car was set on fire in Mitrovica, the Serb stronghold in northern Kosovo.


Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec in Belgrade; Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania; and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

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