Boy shoots dead nine people in Belgrade classroom

Ambulances and police officers arrive following a shooting at a school in the capital Belgrade on May 3, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

BELGRADE — A 14-year-old boy opened fire in his Belgrade classroom on Wednesday morning, shooting dead eight fellow pupils and a security guard in a pre-planned attack and wounding seven others, Serbian officials said.

Using his father's handgun, the boy fired first at the security guard and three girls in the hallway and then entered a history class and shot at the teacher and classmates, police said. The teacher and six pupils were hospitalised, some with life-threatening injuries.

The interior ministry statement said eight children and a security guard had been killed and six children had been hospitalised along with the teacher

Police said a seventh-grade student had been arrested in the schoolyard after calling the police and confessing to the shooting. An investigation into his motives was under way.

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Veselin Milic, head of Belgrade police, said the attacker had two guns and two petrol bombs and had pre-planned everything. "He even had … names of children he wanted to kill and their classes," he told a press conference.

Officers in helmets and bulletproof vests cordoned off the area around the school. Bodies were carried out and put into funeral vehicles.

Evgenija, 14, said she knew the shooter.

"He was somehow silent, and appeared nice and had good grades. Did not know much about him, he was not that open to everyone. I would never expect that this could happen," she told Reuters.

"I heard noises and I thought some boys, some kids were throwing firecrackers, just for the fun of it, but then I heard that even closer and … then I saw the security guard falling to the ground," she said, adding that she then ran away.

The interior ministry said eight children and a security guard had been killed and six children had been hospitalised along with the teacher. Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic said that the father of the shooter had also been arrested.

'She managed to escape'

Milan Milosevic, the father of one of the pupils at the Vladislav Ribnikar elementary school where the shooting took place, said his daughter was in the classroom with the attacker.

"She managed to escape. (The boy) …first shot the teacher and then he started shooting randomly," Milosevic, who had rushed to the school, told broadcaster N1.

"I saw the security guard lying under the table. I saw two girls with blood on their shirts. They say he (the shooter) was quiet and a good pupil. He recently joined their class," Milosevic added.

Nedeljkovic said doctors were fighting to save the teacher's life. Sinisa Ducic – the acting director of a paediatric clinic in Belgrade treating three of the children – said one, a girl, was undergoing surgery on her head.

"She has a serious injury," Ducic told reporters.

Education Minister Branko Ruzic declared three days of national mourning starting on Friday.

Mass shootings are comparatively rare in Serbia, which has very strict gun laws and has issued several amnesties for owners to hand in or register illegal guns.

But the western Balkans are awash with hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons following wars and unrest in the 1990s.

In the deadliest shooting in Serbia since then, Ljubisa Bogdanovic killed 14 people the central village of Velika Ivanca in 2013. Nikola Radosavljevic killed nine and wounded five in the eastern village of Jabukovac on July 27 2007.

Rade Sefer killed six guests at his son's wedding in the northern town of Senta in 2015 and a year later, Sinisa Zlatic killed five people with an assault rifle in a cafe in the town of Zitiste, also in the north.

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All those assailants were adults.

Luka 17, who studies in the nearby high school said it was a tragedy that had been long in the making.

"This is a mistake that the entire Serbian society is making for over a decade …this popularisation of violent crime through public and media, through art, through everything," he said.