Oliver Ivanovic, Kosovo Serb Leader Accused of War Crimes, Is Killed

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 10 years after the bloody conflict between Serb forces and Kosovar-Albanian rebels.

A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air campaign eventually forced Serbia to withdraw its troops, but European Union monitors remain in Kosovo.

He was the leader of Kosovo Serb party Freedom, Democracy, Justice.

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called a top state security meeting to discuss the shooting, and was later due to address the public. He declined to comment on whether he believed the killing was ethnically motivated.

Medics say Ivanovic received at least five gunshot wounds to his upper torso when shot by unknown assailants.

'He was taken to the hospital immediately, the doctors tried to revive him, but he could not be saved, ' lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic said.

Kosovo police said they had found a burned opel auto in norther Mitrovica after the shooting and they suspected the vehicle could be linked to shooting. The media has described the attack as a drive-by shooting.

The Kosovo government issued a statement condemning the killing, which it said "challenges the rule of law and any attempt to establish order throughout the entire territory of Kosovo".

The Kosovo government has strongly denounced the killing
The Kosovo government has strongly denounced the killing

Ivanović, 64, was killed on what was supposed to be the first day of talks between Serbia and Kosovo, aimed at improving relations, in more than a year. But after a retrial was ordered previous year, he was released and allowed to defend himself while free.

Ivanovic speaks Albanian - rare for a Kosovo Serb. In July, his auto was set on fire in Mitrovica, the Serb stronghold in northern Kosovo.

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

The group later disbanded but many members moved into organised crime.

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, strongly condemned the murder of Ivanovic and called on all sides to show calm and restraint and allow the rule of law and justice to take its course, the EU office in Kosovo said in a press release.

"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.

Relations between Serbia and Kosovo have been tense since 2008, but in 2013 both parties agreed to participate in EU-sponsored negotiations on normalizing relations, a condition for both to progress on their way toward membership in the bloc.

  • Tracy Klein