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Hovenier for “Politico”: The attack was coordinated and sophisticated

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The United States has concluded that Sunday’s attack by suspected Serbian militia in northern Kosovo, which left one officer and three gunmen dead, was aimed at destabilizing the region and is warning of a possible escalation further between old enemies.

“We know it was coordinated and sophisticated,” the US ambassador in Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, told Politico, adding that the gunmen appear to have been militarily trained.

“The amount of weapons shows that this was serious, with a plan to destabilize security in the region.”

Kosovo police said a group of about 30 heavily armed Serbs ambushed a police patrol early Sunday, killing one officer and wounding another, before fleeing and taking refuge in a nearby Orthodox monastery. The three gunmen were killed in a shootout with police and two were arrested. Most of the Serb gunmen managed to sneak out of the monastery and escape on foot, Kosovo authorities said.

Western officials said the incident reflected heightened geopolitical tensions in the Balkans, as Russia, frustrated by Europe’s strong support for Ukraine, tries to use its influence with allies in Serbia and elsewhere to stoke tensions, particularly in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Hovenier said the U.S. still needs to determine whether Serbia was responsible for the attack, as Kosovo claims, but he said equipment seized by Kosovar authorities, including rocket launchers, mines and an armored personnel carrier, were of “military rank unavailable to the ordinary citizen“.

He said the US had no reason to suspect that the weapons and other equipment presented by Kosovo Police at a press conference on Monday were not those found at the scene.

“The people we hold responsible are the people who shot the Kosovo police officer,” Hovenier said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić denied that Belgrade was involved in the attack, insisting that it was the work of local Kosovo Serbs provoked by Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who has increased police in the north in recent months, writes Politico.

It is unclear whether the gunmen sought confrontation with Kosovo Police on Sunday or were planning a long-term operation and encountered a squad of Kosovo police, Western officials said.

Despite deep distrust between the two sides, Hovenier said Western efforts to achieve peace must continue.

Calling the incident “extremely unfortunate,” he said he hoped it would “provide incentives to both Belgrade and Pristina to pursue good neighborly relations.”

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