Eight children, security guard killed in Belgrade school shooting

Eight children and a security guard killed as a student uses two guns and two petrol bombs in preplanned school attack.

A 14-year-old suspect in Belgrade killed eight of his schoolmates and a security guard, in a rare mass shooting that has shocked Serbia and the surrounding Balkan region.

Using his father’s weapons, the teenage attacker opened fire on the Vladislav Ribnikar school in central Belgrade on Wednesday morning.

Veselin Milic, head of Belgrade police, said he had two guns and two petrol bombs and had preplanned everything.

“He even had … names of children he wanted to kill and their classes,” he told a news conference.

A sketch the suspect drew before the attack “looks a bit like something from a video game, or from a horror movie”, said Milic. “It indicated that he planned in detail, to go room by room, class by class – how to enter each classroom, and how to kill each child and in what order.”

A schoolgirl witness told Al Jazeera, “At first, I thought that someone was throwing firecrackers in the corridors and that it was nothing serious. But later, I saw a member of security fall to the floor … I ran and I told the PE teachers about the shooting upstairs, then we all went to safety and we heard more shooting.”

Teachers were quick to lock down the school, said another student.

“I saw my teachers running. First, they locked the school and they told us that we were not allowed to go out, that we have to stay in the classrooms.”

At least one of six injured pupils was in a life-threatening condition and was undergoing surgery, reports said, while a teacher was also seriously wounded.

Milan Nedeljkovic, mayor of the central Vracar district, where the school is located, said doctors were fighting to save the teacher’s life.

As news of the shooting spread, terrified parents arrived at the school to try to find their children.

Milan Milosevic, who said his daughter was in a history class when the shooting took place, told N1 television that he rushed out when he heard what had happened.

“I asked, ‘Where is my child?’ but no one could tell me anything at first,” he said. “Then she called, and we found out she was out.”

“He [the shooter] fired first at the teacher and then the children who ducked under the desks,” Milosevic quoted his daughter as saying. “She said he was a quiet boy and a good student.”

Police block the street around the Vladislav Ribnikar school in Belgrade, Serbia
Police say a teenage boy opened fire on Wednesday morning in a school in central Belgrade and was arrested [Darko Vojinovic/AP]

Officers in helmets and bulletproof vests cordoned off the area around the school.

“I saw kids running out from the school, screaming,” a girl who attends a high school adjacent to Vladislav Ribnikar told state TV RTS. “Parents came. They were in panic. Later, I heard three shots.”

Local media footage from the scene showed commotion outside the school as police removed the suspect, whose head was covered as officers led him to a car parked in the street.

Mass shootings are relatively rare in Serbia, which has strict gun laws, but the western Balkans are awash with hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons after wars and unrest in the 1990s.

In the last mass shooting, a Balkan war veteran in 2013 killed 13 people in a central Serbian village.

Serbian authorities have offered several amnesties for owners to hand in or register illegal guns.

Al Jazeera’s Ognjen Zoric, reporting in Belgrade, said people across the nation were in shock.

“What we witnessed this morning is that there are many people who were shocked and in tears,” he said. “Pupils from the school were evacuated and are now being comforted by their parents. The people of Belgrade are also shocked, because this is not a common tragedy in Serbia, or the region.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies