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article imageThree Kosovo Serbs arrested over politician's murder

By AFP     Nov 23, 2018 in World

Three Kosovo Serbs were arrested Friday over the murder of prominent Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic who was shot dead in January, Kosovo authorities said.

The early morning arrests were a rare intervention by Kosovo's special police forces into the northern half of Mitrovica, an ethnically divided city with Serbs in the north and Albanians in the south.

The move comes amid tensions between Pristina and Belgrade, where President Aleksandar Vucic denounced the arrests as "the strongest attempt so far to threaten the continued presence of Serbs in Kosovo".

Kosovo police spokesman Baki Kelani said three people were arrested "in connection with the case of the murder of Oliver Ivanovic."

Authorities are still searching for an additional suspect who was not at home, while a fourth man was detained for trying to interfere, he added.

Two of those arrested were police officers, Kosovo police said in a statement.

Ivanovic, a moderate Serb politician in a deeply polarised city, was killed by gunmen in front of his office in northern Mitrovica on 16 January 2018.

His killers have never been identified.

The 64-year-old was considered a rare Serb politician capable of building bridges between his community and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.

But associates of Ivanovic, who was tough on crime, have said they believe the murder was more likely a mafia hit than related to communal relations.

The arrests come during an already rocky week between Pristina and Belgrade, who are locked in a diplomatic feud.

Serbia refuses to recognise the independence of Kosovo, a former southern province that broke away in a war two decades ago.

In the latest provocation, Kosovo slapped Serbian imports with a 100 tariff this week in retaliation for Belgrade's efforts to thwart global recognition of its statehood.

Several protests against the measure were held Friday in predominantly Serb parts of Kosovo.

In response to Friday's arrests, KFOR, the NATO-led international forces that have been tasked ensuring Kosovo's safety, said in a statement that "the situation remains stable" despite "increasing tensions at the political level."

"KFOR continues monitoring the situation and maintains its presence on the ground, hopefully with no need to intervene," it added.

In Belgrade Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called a meeting with his defence and interior ministers and other top security officials.

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