Manhunt after leading Kosovo Serb politician gunned down


MITROVICA, Kosovo (AP) — A leading Serb politician in northern Kosovo was gunned down this morning, an attack that raised ethnic tensions in the Balkans and prompted the suspension of EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

Assailants opened fire on Oliver Ivanovic, 64, close to the offices of his political party in the Serb-controlled northern city of Mitrovica. He was taken to a hospital but doctors were unable to save him.

The doctors said Ivanovic had received at least five gunshot wounds to his upper torso. The assailants escaped in a car that was later found burned out. Kosovo police sealed off the area of the shooting and began a manhunt for the attackers.

Ivanovic was one of the key politicians in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, a former Serbian province where tensions still remain high a decade after it declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize that independence.

Ivanovic was considered a moderate who maintained relations with NATO and EU officials even after Serbia lost the control of its former province following NATO's 1999 bombing to stop a deadly Serb crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

Ivanovic, who was married with three children, had enemies both among Kosovo Albanians and nationalist Serbs because of his moderate policies.

A Kosovo court had convicted Ivanovic of war crimes during the 1998-99 war. That verdict was overturned and a retrial was underway.

In Pristina, the Kosovo government strongly denounced the slaying, saying it considers the attack a challenge to "efforts to establish the rule of law in the whole of Kosovo territory."

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