BELGRADE: A gunman killed five people and injured at least 20 others early Saturday when he opened fire with an automatic weapon in a crowded cafe in northern Serbia, police said. The suspect was arrested.
The attack occurred at 01:40 a.m. local time in a village close to the town of Zrenjanin, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Belgrade.
A police statement says a man identified only as Z.S. first killed his wife and another woman before randomly shooting at other occupants of the “Makijato” cafe.
Witnesses told Serbia’s state TV that the attacker came to the cafe and saw his wife there with a group of friends. He then went home and came back with a gun.
“He just pulled out a gun and started shooting, first into the air,” one of the witnesses, Svetozar Manojlovic, said.
“It sounded like firecrackers at first,” he said. “Then the guy next to me fell down and others started falling down. It was total chaos.”
Cafe owner Ljubomir Milinovic said people didn’t immediately grasp what was going on. The cafe was packed with people enjoying a hot summer night.
“It was horrible, people were screaming and there was blood everywhere,” Milinovic said. “We immediately started rushing people to the hospital and ambulances soon arrived.”
Serbia’s Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said that the cafe guests eventually managed to grab the weapon from the man’s hands when he tried to run away. Police in the vicinity arrived swiftly and caught the suspect, Stefanovic said.
He said that the probable motive was jealousy.
Stefanovic said the automatic weapon was illegal. He appealed to citizens to hand over illegal weapons that many people have following the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s.
“This was completely unexpected,” Stefanovic said, speaking in front of the “Makijato” cafe in the village of Zitiste. “There were no signs at all, people tell us that he was completely calm and normal,” he said.
Last year, a man killed six people with a hunting rifle in northern Serbia, while in 2013 a Balkan war veteran killed 13 people in a shooting spree in a central Serbian village.
The tragedies shocked the nation and sparked a public debate about the amount of weapons left over from the 1990s conflict.
The wounded from Zitiste were taken to hospitals in nearby Zrenjanin and Novi Sad. Doctors in Zrenjanin said seven people underwent operation and were in serious condition.
Local authorities said they will declare a three-day mourning starting Sunday. -AP