Serbia called a day of mourning for the 13 victims of the deadliest peacetime shooting in the nation’s post-Yugoslav history as police search for clues why the 60-year-old army veteran went amok in a quiet village.
The gunman, Ljubisa Bogdanovic, remained in critical condition at the Belgrade Emergency Center today, after he allegedly murdered his son, mother and 11 others, then wounded his wife and turned the gun on himself. Investigators haven’t had the chance to question him on motive as doctors work to save him from nine self-inflicted gunshot wounds to his head.
The killings in the hamlet of about 20 households an hour’s drive from Belgrade is the third gun-related rampage in 11 years for Serbia, a participant of the Balkan civil wars, Europe’s bloodiest since the end of World War II. Prime Minister Ivica Dacic will order flags at half staff and hold a moment of silence as Serbians contemplate the violence, said government spokesman Milivoje Mihajlovic.
“This is a great tragedy,” said Dacic yesterday during a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to Sarajevo-based Vijesti newspaper. “In recent years, there have been many cases of family violence.” The government, meanwhile, said it “expresses condolences and support to the families of the victims.”
In 2002, an attacker killed seven and critically wounded four others, and in 2007 a gunman murdered nine and wounded two, according to the government. Even so, the numbers of murders in Serbia have fallen in the past 15 years from 280 to 58 last year. In 2011, the number dipped to 52, according to the Interior Ministry.
In the latest incident, villagers were awoken before dawn by the onset of the attack. Bogdanovic, according to witnesses and police, first shot his son and mother dead with a pistol in their home before attacking his wife. He then went from house to house, shooting the other victims. All but two were relatives in the community.
Hours after the rampage, five houses were were taped off. Investigators are uncertain about the motive and were working to piece together what happened by interviewing residents, including his two surviving daughters, 39-year-old twins named Zorica and Slavica, and taking eyewitness statements.
“This happened out of the blue just like any other mass murder,” said Zorica Pavlovic, a local psychologist who helped investigators at the scene and treated the daughters for shock.
Charges have yet to be filed against Bogdanovic as it is unclear whether he would survive to face trial, said Dusica Ristic, a spokeswoman from the Higher Court in Belgrade.
“At this stage, there is no court procedure and therefore no legal representative,” said Ristic in a phone interview. “This is all still being investigated by the police.”
Serbian National Police Chief Milorad Veljovic said Bogdanovic had served briefly on the front lines during Serbia’s war in the 1990s with Croatia following the dissolution of Yugoslavia. He didn’t say if he believed his actions were related to his war service.
The Bogdanovic twins were spared because they live in another village, though they visited their parents on the previous day for lunch, according to an interview they gave to Blic newspaper.
“Things were normal, and dad worked around the house and felt well,” said Zorica. “He has never acted strangely, not even after he returned from the front line.”
Stanica Kostadinovic, a villager who said police saved her from the massacre, was alerted that something was amiss by a dog barking. When police arrived, they warned Kostadinovic and her family to remain in the house and began pursuing Bogdanovic, she said.
“When the killer saw the police, he ran off to an orchard and shot himself there,” she said. The Belgrade-based Interior Ministry, in an e-mailed statement, confirmed Kostadinovic’s account.
To contact the reporters on this story: Misha Savic in Belgrade at firstname.lastname@example.org; Gordana Filipovic in Belgrade at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org