Heartbreaking cries were held Saturday in Serbia for some of the victims of this week’s two mass shootings, just a day apart, that killed 17 people and wounded 21, many of them children .
The country was devastated and shocked by Wednesday’s shooting at a Belgrade school and Thursday’s shooting in a rural area south of the capital.
While Serbia is awash with weapons and no stranger to post-war crisis situations in the 1990s, a school shooting like Wednesday’s has never happened before. The most recent mass shooting occurred in 2013, when a veteran killed 13 people.
Wednesday’s shooter, a 13-year-old boy, opened fire on classmates, killing seven girls, a boy and a school guard. A day later, a 20-year-old man opened fire in two villages in central Serbia, killing eight people.
Classmates and hundreds of others wept bitterly as a girl killed in a school shooting was buried in Belgrade in a small white coffin covered with piles of flowers. The girl’s mother was so distraught she could barely stand. A girl collapsed screaming and sobbing during worship.
While the country has struggled to come to grips with the shootings, authorities have pledged to crack down on guns and said they would increase security in schools. Thousands lit candles and left flowers near the site of the shooting in Belgrade to express their grief and solidarity.
“My soul aches for them,” said Vesna Kostic, who paid his respects outside the school on Saturday. “I’m always looking for a reason, a reason why this happened to him (the shooter), why this happened to us.”
Four of the eight children killed in the school shooting, along with Vladislav Ribnikar school guard, were buried in a Belgrade cemetery on Saturday, Serbian media reported, the second of a three-day period of mourning for the victims. sky.
About 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the south, a mass funeral was held in the small village of Malo Orasje for the five young people shot dead in the shooting on Thursday night.
Weeping mourners lined up to light candles as they waited for the coffin to be placed on five pews outside the village church for services.
“Five graves! He [the killer] Five families were closed,” a villager told N1 television. “How could this be? “
Serbian police said the suspected attacker stopped a taxi after the rampage and asked the driver to take him to a village further south, where he was arrested on Friday. Officials later said they found weapons and ammunition at two houses he used there.
The suspect, identified as Uros Blazic, told prosecutors during an interrogation in the central town of Smederevo that he shot and killed some people he did not know because he wanted to kill people among residents, RTS state television reported. Spread fear. He faces charges of first-degree murder and unauthorized possession of firearms and ammunition.
The motive for both shootings was unclear. The 13-year-old boy was placed in a mental institution because he was too young to face criminal charges. His father was arrested on suspicion of teaching his son to use a firearm and failing to properly secure his weapon.
Authorities said the man suspected of attacking the village was wearing a pro-Nazi T-shirt and complained of being “belittled,” but it was not clear what he meant. Serbia’s populist President Aleksandar Vucic has promised that these “monsters” will “never see the light of day again”.
Those injured in both shootings have been hospitalized, most undergoing complex surgical procedures. One girl and one boy involved in the school shooting are in serious condition; the village victim is in stable condition but remains under observation.
Six children and a teacher were injured in the school shooting, while 14 people were wounded in the villages of Malo Orasje and Dubona. Dubona’s dead included an off-duty police officer and his sister.
Authorities released a photo showing the suspect at the time of his arrest as a young man wearing a blue T-shirt with the slogan “Generation 88” sitting in a police van. Double eight is often used as shorthand for “Heil Hitler” because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
In addition to cracking down on guns, officials announced increased monitoring of social networks and the media. As of Saturday, several people had been questioned for posting threats or videos in support of the killer on social networks, Tanjug news agency reported.
The Serbian Ministry of Education has drawn up a crisis plan for students at Vladislav Ribnikar’s school, which will gradually return to classes next Wednesday. A team of experts, backed by UNICEF, will provide support and oversee the process, a department statement said.
Experts have repeatedly warned that decades of crisis and economic hardship, combined with corrupt institutions and high levels of intolerance in public discourse and politics, could push some over the edge.
The populist-led Balkan state refused to fully confront its role in the wars of the 1990s, with war criminals largely treated as heroes and minorities routinely facing harassment and sometimes physical violence.
“The question now is whether our society is ready to reject the violent model,” warns psychologist Zarko Korac. “When you glorify a war criminal, you glorify his crime and send the message that it was legal.”