Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic shot dead

Mitrovica, Jan 16: Leading Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic was killed in a brazen drive-by shooting on Tuesday that could reignite ethnic tensions in the region.

The assassination of Ivanovic – who was facing a retrial on war crimes charges over the 1990s Kosovo conflict – occurred on the very day that Belgrade and Pristina resumed talks on normalising ties after a hiatus of more than a year.

The Serbian government official in charge of Kosovo, Marko Djuric, described the murder as a “a criminal, terrorist act against the entire Serbian people”.

Ivanovic, 64, was shot dead by gunmen firing from a car as he arrived at the headquarters of his party in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica at about 8:15 am (7.15am GMT), according to police.

“I am informed that he was shot dead on the spot and efforts to revive him at Mitrovica hospital were unsuccessful,” his lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic told AFP.

He said Ivanovic, a moderate politician who had been a critic of Belgrade’s policies in Kosovo, was hit by five bullets.

Police said they found a burnt-out car that was presumably used in the attack, local media reported.

Public prosecutor Shyqri Syla told AFP that investigators were at the scene, but that it was not yet known who was behind the attack.

The 1998-99 war between Serbian security forces and Kosovo Albanian guerrillas was ended by a NATO air campaign.

Predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. But Belgrade has rejected the move and still considers the breakaway territory as its southern province.

About 120,000 of Kosovo’s 1.8 million inhabitants are ethnic Serbs.

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