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article imageKosovo probes Serb politician's shock killing

By AFP     Jan 17, 2018 in World

Investigators Wednesday were probing the killing of a prominent Kosovo Serb politician, which observers warned could worsen tensions in the volatile region.

Oliver Ivanovic, 64, was shot dead from a car Tuesday morning as he arrived at the headquarters of his party in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo.

The ethnically-divided town's 85,000 residents still live in a tense atmosphere nearly two decades since a war between Serbian forces and pro-independence Kosovo Albanian guerrillas that was ended by a NATO air campaign.

"We are all in shock," said the vice-president of Ivanovic's party, Ksenija Bozovic.

Thousands of Mitrovica Serbs accompanied the slain leader's coffin from his Citizens' Initiative party headquarters as it headed out of the town to be buried on Thursday in Belgrade.

"Oliver never wanted to leave, to abandon his Mitrovica and his Kosovo... But the day has come to say farewell to such a man, in a coffin," Bozovic said.

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

He had publicly spoken out against Belgrade's policies in Kosovo, which Serbia still claims as a province despite its independence declaration in 2008.

Ivanovic was shot six times with a Zastava pistol, manufactured in the former Yugoslavia, the results of an autopsy revealed late Wednesday.

The investigation led jointly by Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian prosecutors will have to answer many questions.

"Serb or Kosovo Albanian killers? Terrorist act or political murder?" read front-page headline of the independent Serbian Danas daily.

Koha Ditore, Kosovo's leading Albanian-language daily, warned that the killing "worsens the situation in Kosovo's north."

The paper also warned against a "destabilisation of the country."

Ivanovic was elected in October as a deputy on northern Mitrovica's Serb-dominated municipal council, running against a Belgrade-backed party.

His killers struck on the very day that Serbia and Kosovo resumed European Union-moderated talks on normalising ties after a hiatus of more than a year.

The Serbs walked out the meeting after news of the killing.

Kosovo negotiator Avni Arifi called them to return to the talks.

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