Boy, 13, arrested as eight children and security guard killed in Serbia school shooting

Teenage suspect had names of children he wanted to kill, police say

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 03 May 2023 18:51 BST
Serbia shooting: Police stand guard outside school

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A 13-year-old boy shot dead eight pupils and a security guard at a school in Serbia, police have said – in what they have called a planned attack.

He used two licensed handguns belonging to his father and two petrol bombs in the massacre at the Vladislav Ribnikar school in central Belgrade, police said.

Seven girls and one boy have been confirmed among the dead, with four further boys and two girls and a teacher seriously injured.

Police chief Veselin Milic said the teenage suspect, identified by his initials KK, “even had ... names of children he wanted to kill and their classes” as he compared the plan to something from “a video game or a horror film”. Mr Milic said the dead pupils were born between 2009 and 2011.

Serbia’s interior minister, Bratislav Gasic, suggested the handguns were kept in a safe but that the suspect apparently knew the code. Mr Gasic said the boy’s father was also arrested.

In an evening address, the country's President Aleksandar Vucic announced tougher curbs on gun ownership, including a moratorium on new gun licenses other than for hunting, revision of existing permits and surveillance of shooting ranges and how civilians store their weapons.

The suspected shooter, who at 13 is below Serbia's age of criminal responsibility, will be placed in a psychiatric institution, Mr Vucic said, adding that both his father and mother had been arrested.

"He was the best student. He had asked for a transfer to another class where he had three friends," Mr Vucic said. "He was waiting for this day. He was at the shooting range with his father three times."

Mass shootings are extremely rare in Serbia and in the wider Balkan region; none have been reported at schools in recent years. In the last mass shooting, a Balkan war veteran killed 13 people in a central Serbian village in 2013. However, experts have repeatedly warned of the danger posed by the large number of weapons in the country after the wars of the 1990s.

In the deadliest shooting in Serbia since then, Ljubisa Bogdanovic killed 14 people in 2013. Other mass shootings occurred in 2007, 2015 and 2016. All the assailants were adults.

Milan Milosevic, father of one of the pupils at the school said his daughter was in the classroom with the attacker.

“She managed to escape. [The assailant] ... first shot the teacher and then he started shooting randomly,” he told broadcaster N1.

Police block streets around the Vladislav Ribnikar school
Police block streets around the Vladislav Ribnikar school (AP)

Mr Milosevic, who said he rushed to the school after hearing of the shooting, said: “I saw the security guard lying under the table. I saw two girls with blood on their shirts.”

An unnamed student who was in a sports class when gunfire erupted elsewhere in the building told the Associated Press: “I was able to hear the shooting. It was nonstop.”

“I didn’t know what was happening. We were receiving some messages on the phone,” the student added, describing the shooting suspect as a “quiet guy” who had good grades.

Milan Nedeljkovic, the mayor of the district of Vracar where the shooting happened, said that most of the students were taken out of the school through a back door.

“We have video surveillance, but now this is a lesson, we need metal detectors too,” he said. “It is a huge tragedy ... something like this in Belgrade. Such a tragedy at an elementary school.”

Mr Nedeljkovic said doctors were fighting to save the teacher's life. Sinisa Ducic – the acting director of a paediatric clinic in Belgrade treating three of the children – said one, a girl, was undergoing surgery on her head. “She has a serious injury,” Mr Ducic told reporters.

Milika Asanin, head of Belgrade's University Hospital, said it was treating three pupils and the teacher. “The teacher has a stomach injury and injuries to both hands,” he said.

Police at the scene following school shooting
Police at the scene following school shooting (AP)

Serbia’s education minister, Branko Ruzic, declared three days of national mourning over the school shooting, starting on Friday.

“It is unthinkable when you see the scene of the place, what the children have been through, and the teachers, the teachers who have tried to protect the children,” he told a press conference.

“Sadly there is no possible way for them to come back,” said health minister, Danica Grujicic, close to tears. “This is the worst thing I have seen in my whole career as a doctor and as a human being.”

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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