In view of two gun attacks on defenceless people in Serbia within two days, President Aleksandar Vučić announced on Friday in Belgrade that weapons laws would be significantly tightened and that police officers would be mobilised for greater safety in public. The night before, a twenty-one-year-old had shot dead eight people and injured 50, some seriously, in villages about 14 kilometers southeast of the capital Belgrade. Vučić described this as an "act of terrorism", an "attack on the whole country". On Wednesday morning, a 13-year-old boy killed eight children and a security guard with a pistol at his school in Belgrade.

Stephan Löwenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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A young man named Uroš B., son of a military officer, was identified as the shooter of the latest bloody deed, who was arrested after an elaborate search by special police units on Friday morning in Vinjište near Kragujevac, about 140 kilometers southeast of Belgrade. He apparently turned himself in to the police. After searching his weekend home, which is located in the area where he committed the crimes, as well as a house of relatives of the man in the place where he was arrested, the police seized a whole arsenal of weapons. Among them were a carbine with sights, an assault rifle without a serial number, 164 projectiles of various calibers, 25 pieces of carbine ammunition, four hand grenades, several boxes of pistol ammunition, two silencers and other accessories.

Vučić stated that the suspect had confessed and had explained his act with "contempt" for those around him. Images on Serbian websites show a young man in a blue polo shirt, which shows the outline of France, Italy and Spain on the front and bears the inscription "Generation 88 on tour". The number 88 is a symbol of recognition for neo-Nazis, it stands for "Heil Hitler".

Indiscriminately shot at people

According to media reports, the shooting began around 23 p.m. as a result of a dispute in a village in the Mladenovac region, where Uroš B. lived. The perpetrator returned with the firearm and first fired at a group of people he had previously been with. He then allegedly drove through two other villages and shot indiscriminately at people on the street from a car. Among the eight fatalities are a young policeman who was not on duty and his sister. Several of the injured were in critical condition. Later, the man is said to have forced a taxi driver at gunpoint to drive him to the town of Vinjište near Kragujevac, which is about 60 kilometers away from the scene of the crime. There he was arrested.

More than 600 police officers were involved in the nightly search for the suspect. Special forces, helicopters, thermal imagers and sniffer dogs were deployed. The operation was codenamed "Whirlwind". Interior Minister Bratislav Gašić drove to the scene that night and described the act as a "terrorist act".

Only on Wednesday morning, a thirteen-year-old had committed a massacre in a school in Belgrade. He had shot eight classmates and a security guard with a pistol that he had apparently stolen from his father's safe. The police took him into custody. He is now under observation in a psychiatric hospital. Due to his age – he will not be 14 years old until July – he is not yet of criminal age. As a result of this act, a three-day national mourning had already been ordered from Friday.

In Belgrade, Vučić announced a major disarmament campaign for Serbia, including stricter controls on privately owned weapons, including hunting weapons, and checks on all licenses. He had instructed the Ministry of the Interior to make immediate changes to the weapons law. Currently, 400,000 firearms are legally privately owned, not including hunting weapons. Their number should be reduced to 30,000. Presumably, there is also a large number of undeclared weapons circulating that were easily available in the Balkans as a result of Yugoslavia's wars of disintegration. Vučić announced that he would increase the penalties for the illicit use and carrying of weapons, to about twelve years in prison for possession of a Kalashnikov and 15 years for possession of bombs and grenades. "We will carry out an almost complete disarmament of Serbia," the president promised.

In addition, more than 1000,<> additional police officers are to be hired to increase security at schools, among other things. He announced investigations against people who have endorsed the recent bloodshed on the Internet. However, a state of emergency does not have to be declared.

With emotional and sometimes drastic words, Vučič spoke about the alleged perpetrator of the second massacre. The "villain" will never again see the light of day and come out of prison. The President expressed regret that the government had informed him that it was not possible to reintroduce the death penalty. It is also "strange" that the boy who caused the bloodbath at his school cannot be held criminally responsible.