Serb politician in Kosovo shot dead

Violet Powell
January 17, 2018

Known as a relative moderate among mainly ultra-nationalist Kosovo Serb politicians, Ivanovic became one of the chief interlocutors for NATO, UN and European Union officials based in Kosovo to help steer it towards stable democracy and rule of law.

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.

Under pressure from the global community and European Union auspices, Kosovo and Serbia have been trying to normalize ties some 20 years since the start of the bloody war that claimed 13,000 lives, mostly ethnic Albanians. I call on the institutions of Kosovo to investigate this murder at once and with professionalism, in order for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and has been recognized by 115 countries, though not by Serbia nor its ally, Russia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described the murder as "an act of terror" and vowed to find those responsible. He declined to comment on whether he believed the killing was ethnically motivated.

Serbian media reported that unknown assailants opened fire on Ivanović in front of the offices of his Citizens' Initiative party.

"He was taken to the hospital right away", the lawyer told the Serbian daily Blic.

Tensions remain high between Mitrovica's ethnic Albanians who number about 72,000 and the 13,000-strong Serb community.

The shooter is still unknown, though police said they believe a burned out vehicle found in the city could be linked to the killing.

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The Kosovo authorities condemned the killing, saying it was a challenge to the rule of law in Kosovo.

Ivanovic was considered a moderate who maintained relations with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union officials after Serbia lost control of northern Kosovo following NATO's 1999 bombing to stop a deadly Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

A Kosovo court convicted Ivanovic of war crimes during the 1998-99 war.

The 64-year-old died on January 16 after an attacker shot him several times as he arrived at his office in northern Kosovo, reportedly in a drive-by killing.

Ivanovic, who was married with three children, had enemies both among Kosovo Albanians and nationalist Serbs because of his moderate policies.

Ivanovic came to prominence shortly after the war as one of the Mitrovica "bridge-watchers", Serbs who sought to prevent "infiltration" by Albanians over the Ibar River bridge into the northern half of the town.

In 2014, he and four other ethnic Serbs were arrested by Kosovo authorities over alleged war crimes.

The group later disbanded but many members branched out into organized crime.

"The Albanian majority in the southern part of Mitrovica has long hoped for Kosovo's independence but continues to struggle with the resulting economic and social problems", Crowder wrote.

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