Heartbreaking cries echoed as funerals were held in Serbia on Saturday for some of the victims of two mass shootings that occurred just a day apart this week, which left 17 people dead and 21 injured. dear, many of them are children.
Wednesday’s shooting in a school in Belgrade and Thursday in a rural area south of the capital stunned the nation with grief and shock.
Although Serbia is awash with weapons and is no stranger to crisis situations following the wars of 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 was a 13-year-old boy who opened fire on his 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 cried inconsolably as one of the girls killed in the school shooting was laid to rest in Belgrade in a small white coffin covered with flowers. Overwhelmed with grief, the girl’s mother could barely stand. One girl collapsed during the ceremony amid screams and sobs.
As the country struggles to tackle the shootings, authorities have promised to crack down on guns and say they will increase security in schools. Thousands of candles and flowers were lit near the scene of the shooting in Belgrade, expressing grief and solidarity.
Vesna Kostic, who paid her respects outside the school on Saturday, said: “My heart aches for them. “I keep looking for the cause, why this happened to him (the shooter), why this happened to us.”
Serbian media reported that four of the eight children killed in the school shooting, as well as school guard Vladislav Ribnikar, were buried in cemeteries in Belgrade on Saturday, the second in three days to mourn the victims.
About 50 kilometers (31 miles) south, a mass funeral was held in the small village of Malo Orasje for the five young men shot dead in a mass shooting on Thursday night.
Sobs lined up to light candles while the coffin was placed on five benches outside the village church for the ceremony.
“Five graves! He [the killer] closed five families,” one villager told N1 TV channel. “How did this happen?”
Serbian police say the suspected attacker stopped a taxi after going on a rampage and forced the driver to take him to a village further south, where he was arrested on Friday. Officers later said they found weapons and ammunition in two homes he was using there.
The suspect, identified as Uros Blazic, told prosecutors during questioning in the central town of Smederevo that he shot people he didn’t know because he wanted to instill fear in the people. State broadcaster RTS reported. He faces charges of first-degree murder and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
The motive for both shootings remains unclear. The 13-year-old boy, too young to be criminally charged, was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. His father was arrested for allegedly teaching his son to use a gun and not guarding the weapon well enough.
Authorities said the suspected village attacker was wearing a pro-Nazi T-shirt and complained of “disparagement,” although it was unclear what he meant. Serbian populist President Aleksandar Vucic promised the “monsters” to “never see the light of day again”.
Those injured in the two shootings have been hospitalized and most have undergone complex surgeries. A girl and a boy in the school shooting are still in serious condition; The victims in the village are stable but under constant monitoring.
The school shooting left six children and a teacher injured, while 14 people were injured in the villages of Malo Orasje and Dubona. The dead in Dubona included a policeman on duty and his sister.
Authorities released a photo that shows the suspect shooting as he was arrested — a young man sitting in a police car wearing a blue T-shirt with the slogan “Generation 88” on it. The double eight is often used as a shorthand for “Heil Hitler” because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
In addition to the gun crackdown, officials have announced increased surveillance of social networks and media. The Tanjug news agency reported that as of Saturday, several people had been questioned for posting threats or videos in support of the killers on social media.
The Serbian Ministry of Education outlined a crisis plan for the students of Vladislav Ribnikar school to gradually return to classes next Wednesday. A team of experts, supported by UN children’s agency UNICEF, will provide support and oversee the process, a ministry statement said.
Experts have repeatedly warned that decades of crisis and economic hardship, coupled with corrupt institutions and high levels of intolerance in public speaking and politics, could push some people down to the edge of the abyss.
The populist-led Balkan nation has refused to fully confront its role in the wars of the 1990s, war criminals are largely seen as heroes and minorities are frequently forced to face harassment and sometimes physical violence.
Psychologist Zarko Korac warns: “The question now is whether our society is ready to reject the model of violence. “When you honor a war criminal, you glorify his crime and you send a message that it is legal.”