Hundreds of Serbian officers were dispatched Saturday into a border area with Hungary, where they detained several people after a shooting between migrants killed three people and injured one, police said.
Reports of violence and gun battles have become common near the border between Serbia and European Union member nation Hungary. Thousands of migrants have been camping in the area, looking for ways to cross with the help of people smugglers.
Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic, who visited the area, pledged that "we will not move from here until every person responsible for any criminal act or incident is removed.”
Police actions are aimed at “curbing irregular migration and raising the level of security in this part of the country, where clashes among migrants are frequent, not rarely with the use of firearms,” the force said in a statement.
Police said they detained two people Saturday from Kosovo who are suspected of smuggling migrants and supplying them with weapons. Officers also found 54 Turkish passports, the statement added.
Late on Friday, police reported detaining four Afghan and two Turkish nationals suspected of unlawful possession of guns and explosives. It was not immediately clear whether any of the detained people will be charged with the shooting that took place earlier on Friday.
The suspected clash between groups of migrants happened in abandoned farming warehouses near the village of Horgos. Police said the injured migrant received medical aid and an investigation was ongoing to establish what happened. The nationalities of the victims and the injured migrant, as well as other details, were still unclear, they said.
Police raided the area and seized two automatic rifles and ammunition. They also found 79 migrants and transferred them to reception centers, the statement said.
The Serbia-Hungary border area lies on the so-called Balkan land route of migration toward Western Europe, which leads from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria, and then on to North Macedonia, Serbia or Bosnia.
Hungary’s staunchly anti-immigrant government has put up razor-wire fence on the border with Serbia to stop the influx, and has pushed back into Serbia migrants who enter Hungary. People smuggling gangs, however, have multiplied in the border area, often clashing for control.
Serbian police have raided the border zone on several occasions over the past several months, arresting suspected people smugglers and confiscating weapons. President Aleksandar Vucic said Friday that Serbia could bring in the military “to fix this,” state RTS television reported.
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