July 22, 2024

An attacker with a crossbow wounded a Serbian police officer guarding the Israeli Embassy in Belgrade on Saturday, Serbia‘s Interior Ministry said.

The officer responded by fatally shooting the assailant.

Both Serbian and Israeli officials said initial indications pointed to terrorism as a motive.

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Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said in a statement that the attacker fired a bolt at the officer, hitting him in the neck.

He said the officer then “used a weapon in self-defence to shoot the attacker, who died as a result of his injuries.”

The policeman was conscious when he was transported to Belgrade’s main emergency hospital and underwent an operation to remove the bolt from his neck.

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Hospital officials said he was stable after surgery.

Serbia’s populist President Aleksandar Vucic visited the wounded officer in the hospital, promising a sweeping crackdown against “terrorists.”

“We are hunting them down,” he said.

“We will have no mercy for terrorism in Serbia.”

A spokesman with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “today there was an attempted terrorist attack in the vicinity of the Israeli Embassy in Belgrade.”

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The spokesman said the embassy is closed and no employee of the embassy was injured.

Israel’s ambassador to Belgrade, Yahel Vilan, said he was deeply shocked “by the terrorist attack” in front of the embassy.

He expressed gratitude for the Serbian police officer “who courageously prevented the attack” and said he is “convinced that the investigation by the competent authorities of this shameful attack will identify all responsible persons and further contribute to the preservation of Serbia as a safe country.”

Minister Dacic told reporters that an investigation was ongoing, but “there are now all indications that the motives relate to terrorism. Because there is no other motive why someone would attack a gendarme outside the Israeli Embassy.”

Dacic identified the attacker as a 25-year-old Serb who converted to Islam.

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Police are investigating his possible network and ties with foreign terrorist groups after another person was arrested near the scene of the shooting, he added.

“There are indications that those are individuals already known to the security services … the Wahhabi movement,” said Dacic, referring to the hard-line Islamist movement.

Authorities raised the security alert in Belgrade, including for foreign embassies and government buildings but also public places such as shopping malls and other busy areas.

Israel’s embassy is located not far from the US Embassy in an upscale Belgrade district. It is guarded by an elite police unit with officers armed with automatic weapons.

Serbia has maintained close relations with Israel during the war in Gaza.

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