August 13, 2003: Gunman opens fire on group of teenagers swimming in the Bistrica River

On this day in 2003, ethnic Albanians are believed to have been behind the shooting of six teens (two died) in Kosovo.

Nationalist grievances may be legitimate, but firing on kids swimming is never legitimate.

GORAZDEVAC, KOSOVO — If there is one area of the world that constantly rises to the top of the list when it comes to ethnic and national rivalries it has to be the Balkans. This part of southern Europe seems to be a witch’s brew of religious, racial and linguistic incompatibilities that defies resolution. It was not for nothing that a small regional dispute in that region was the spark that set off WWI (the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Arch Duke Ferdinand in 1914).

The most recent significant bloodshed was of course the wars of the early 1990s in the wake of the dissolution of the former East Bloc. Call former dictator Tito what you want but he was able to keep these factions together for a half century. Once the scaffolding fell down all hell broke lose.

Srebenica. Mass murders. Rape camps. Mortars fired into markets. The list goes on and on. Some think that the Serbs and Croats were most at fault and the Bosnian Muslims were on the receiving end of the carnage most of the time. In truth there was enough blame to go around many times. All sides carried out nasty attacks.

Today’s is a case in point.

On this day in 2003

On August 13, 2003 four ethnic Serbs were wounded and two killed as unknown assailants shot with automatic rifles at a group of mostly children that played and swam by a river in the village of Gorazdevac in Kosovo. The shooters were likely ethnic Albanians, who constitute the majority in Kosovo but had little in the way of rights under Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic (Kosovo used to be part of Serbia and there are still disputes in the relatively new state between Serbs and Albanian/Kosovars).

I’m afraid that many Serbs will not be thinking about returning to their houses for a long time

The shooting came hours after a group of Serbs reportedly had thrown stones at an Albanian girl passing through their territory. This sounds like a minor incident that did not warrant a retaliation with a gun.

Besides, who the hell shoots kids in a river? Then again, that’s the Balkans.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

Leave a Reply