By Fatos Bytyci and Ivana Sekularac
PRISTINA/BELGRADE (Reuters) – Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic, who was standing trial over the killings of ethnic Albanians during the 1998-99 war, was shot dead on Tuesday in what Serbia called an act of terrorism.
The killing increased tension between Kosovo and Serbia, and a round of European Union-sponsored dialogue on a normalisation of relations that was due to take place in Brussels was suspended at the request of Belgrade.
The European Union and United States called on both sides to remain calm and for Kosovo authorities to bring the killers to justice without delay. They also urged authorities in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that won independence a decade ago, and Serbia to recommit to working for a normalisation of relations.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic convened an emergency session of the country’s National Security Council.
“For the Serbian state this is considered an act of terrorism,” Vucic said afterward, and Belgrade would demand to be included in the investigation. He declined to comment on whether he believed the killing was ethnically motivated.
Ivanovic, 64, was gunned down in front of his party office in Mitrovica, a town bitterly divided between ethnic Serbs and Albanians, shortly after 8 a.m. (0700 GMT). He was taken to a hospital but doctors failed to revive him.
There were no witnesses to the attack and no shots were heard, suggesting the weapon used had been fitted with a silencer, Serbian media reported. Tanjug news agency quoted his lawyer as saying Ivanovic was shot at least five times.
Police said they found a burnt-out Opel car in the town after the shooting and suspected it was linked to the attack. They offered 10,000 euros ($12,225) to anyone with information that would resolve the case, and provided a secure phone line.
The Kosovo government, led by some former commanders of ethnic Albanian guerrillas who rose up against Belgrade’s repressive rule in the late 1990s, also condemned the…