Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Teen kills nine in school shooting in Serbia

Serbia entered three days of mourning after a 13-year-old boy killed eight students and a security guard at his school in the capital Belgrade. Six students and a teacher were also wounded.

(CN) — A 13-year-old boy killed eight students and a security guard in a mass shooting at his upscale school in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, on Wednesday morning, sending shock waves across Europe.

The seventh-grader was arrested and led out of the Vladislav Ribnikar elementary school Wednesday morning in what police described as a planned attack on his class using his father's handguns. He was arrested in the school playground with a backpack containing ammunition, four Molotov cocktails and a handgun, according to news reports.

Seven girls and one boy were killed, police said. Six students – four boys and two girls – and his history teacher were wounded; they were being treated at hospitals.

He reportedly shot at students in the hallways before he entered his class where he shot his history teacher and classmates. Authorities were alerted at 8:40 am and police reached the school shortly afterward.

Students at the school described horrifying, chaotic scenes.

“I was able to hear the shooting. It was nonstop,” said a student who was in a sports class when gunfire erupted elsewhere in the building, as reported by the Associated Press. Her mother asked that her name be withheld because of her age.

“I didn’t know what was happening. We were receiving some messages on the phone,” she said. She described the shooter as a “quiet guy” who had good grades.

“He was not so open with everybody. Surely I wasn’t expecting this to happen,” she said.

Police said the boy had not provided a motive for the attack though he apparently had a list of people he wanted to kill and had planned the shooting for at least a month.

At a news conference, police held up a piece of paper on which the boy had allegedly written the names of 16 people he wanted to kill with one name crossed out. The shooter's name was not immediately released.

School shootings are extremely rare in Serbia as is the case in the rest of Europe where gun laws are strict. Serbia declared three days of mourning starting on Friday. To pay tribute, people laid flowers and lit candles outside the school.

“I have been to thousands of investigations – this is unheard of in Serbian society,” said Belgrade Police Chief Veselin Milic at a news conference.

“Today is one of the most difficult days in the modern history of our country,” said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in a televised address on Wednesday evening. “Serbia is united in grief.”

Serbia's education minister, Branko Ruzic, blamed “the cancerous, pernicious influence of the internet, video games, so-called Western values.”

Kurir, a Serbian newspaper, said the boy's 48-year-old father, a radiologist, was also taken into custody for questioning and faced potential criminal charges. The father's handguns reportedly were licensed.

Prosecutors said the boy could not be charged with a crime under Serbia's juvenile justice system because he had not reached the age of 14, Kurir reported. The boy's age initially was reported as 14 by many media outlets.

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Porfirije, said in a statement that the school shooting caused him “excruciating pain” and that he was praying for those killed and wounded.

He called it a “disaster the likes of which has never happened in our nation.”

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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