A man was arrested after a gunman shot and wounded two Serbs, one an 11-year-old child, in Kosovo on Friday, Orthodox Christmas Eve, police there said, sparking protests.
Kosovo police said in a statement that they had arrested “a 33-year-old man” in southern Kosovo, who Defence Minister Armend Mehaj said the man was a member of the security forces.
Shortly after the shooting incident, local Serbs blocked traffic on a regional road in protest, Serbian national television (RTS) reported.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti denounced “in the strongest terms… the attack on two citizens of Kosovo”.
A former Serbian province, Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but although recognized by much of the international community, Serbia has never accepted the declaration.
The shooting took place near the small southern town of Strpce, which is predominantly populated by the Serb minority.
Two cousins, an 11-year-old and a 21-year-old, were shot from a car that fled the scene, said officials. The lives of the two were not in danger, police said.
They had been carrying oak branches, a tradition for Orthodox Serbs on Christmas Eve, according to a statement from the Serbian government’s Kosovo office.
“This is an obvious attempt to murder,” the statement said.
Kosovo police did not release the identity of the assailant.
“Suspect A.K. will be treated according to the rules and the law,” Mehaj posted on his Facebook account.
Tensions between Belgrade and Pristina often run high.
The situation worsened in December when hundreds of Serbs set up roadblocks on the roads leading to two border crossings with Serbia for a fortnight.
The Serbian army was placed on high alert, while Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic described the situation then as “on the brink of armed conflict.”
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, after a bitter war in late 1990s.
But Belgrade still refuses to recognize it, encouraging Kosovo’s 120,000 ethnic Serbs to defy Pristina’s authority — especially in the north where they make up the majority.
Kosovo’s 1.8 million population is predominantly made up of ethnic Albanians.