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article imageHundreds mourn slain Kosovo Serb politican at funeral

By Jovan MATIC, with Tanja Vujisic in Mitrovica and Ismet Hajdari in Pristina (AFP)     Jan 18, 2018 in World

Hundreds of people mourned at the funeral of moderate Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic on Thursday, two days after his murder raised tensions in the volatile region.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, several government ministers and opposition leaders joined a crowd of more than a thousand for the burial at Belgrade's main cemetery Novo Groblje.

Ivanovic was shot dead from a car Tuesday morning as he arrived at his party's headquarters in the nothern Kosovo town of Mitrovica. His killers have not yet been identified.

Ivanovic was buried in so-called Alley of Great Men, reserved for Serbian luminaries.

He lies not far from the Nobel Prize literature laureate Ivo Andric and Serbian reformist prime minister Zoran Djindjic, who was assassinated in 2003.

- 'Tragedy' for locals -

Hundreds of Kosovo Serbs came to the funeral from Mitrovica  the ethnically divided northern Kosovo ...
Hundreds of Kosovo Serbs came to the funeral from Mitrovica, the ethnically divided northern Kosovo town where Ivanovic was shot dead
Oliver BUNIC, AFP

Hundreds of Kosovo Serbs came from Mitrovica, the ethnically divided town where Ivanovic was shot dead, to attend the funeral.

"It is a tragedy, we lost the best among us," said one of them, Aleksandar Jaksic, 44.

Ivanovic's killing raised fears that the already tense situation could worsen in northern Kosovo, home to a Serb minority.

It disrupted a EU-moderated bid to normalise ties between Kosovo and Serbia. Talks had been due to resume on the day when Ivanovic was killed but were postponed indefinitely.

- Kosovo tensions -

Map of Kosovo locating Mitrovica  where a leading Kosovo Serb politician was killed
Map of Kosovo locating Mitrovica, where a leading Kosovo Serb politician was killed
Thorsten EBERDING, Vincent LEFAI, AFP

Nearly two decades since the end of the war between Serbian security forces and Kosovo Albanian guerrillas, the town remains deeply divided between an Albanian majority and Serb minority.

The war claimed 13,000 lives.

The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, a move that Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs still refuse to recognise.

- Victim branded 'paranoid' -

Oliver Ivanovic  pictured here in his office in north Mitrovica on May 5  2017  was seen as a modera...
Oliver Ivanovic, pictured here in his office in north Mitrovica on May 5, 2017, was seen as a moderate Kosovo Serb politician
Armend NIMANI, AFP/File

Ivanovic, 64, was facing a retrial on war crimes charges over the 1990s conflict but was perceived as a moderate politician, favouring dialogue with Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians.

He was the only top Kosovo Serb politician who had publicly spoken out against Belgrade's policies in Kosovo, and was regularly labelled a "traitor" by his political opponents.

He was also a voice against corruption which plagues Kosovo, notably in the Serb-populated north.

During the campaign for October's municipal election, the mayor of northern Mitrovica Goran Rakic, who won against Ivanovic, accused him of a "paranoid conviction" that he was a "victim of threats".

He accused Ivanovic of being "silent while Serb villages and monasteries were burning all over Kosovo in 2004" during inter-ethnic riots.

Rakic changed his tune after the killing, saying that "shots against Ivanovic (were) shots against all Kosovo Serbs."

- Killers 'will never be found' -

Kosovo police secure the area where leading Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic was shot dead
Kosovo police secure the area where leading Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic was shot dead
Armend NIMANI, AFP

After two days of investigations by prosecutors from both ethnic communities, there were still no public hints from officials of who was responsible for the killing.

Police official Zeljko Bojic told AFP that witnesses had been questioned and emails, phone conversations and records from social networks were examined.

"Those responsible will never be found, since in our region the authors of political murders are never discovered," said Serbian political analyst Aleksandar Popov.

He said that whoever was responsible, Ivanovic's death could serve the interests of politicians who want to postpone dialogue on normalising ties between Belgrade and Pristina.

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