Kosovo Serb Politician Oliver Ivanovic Assassinated

Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic outside his office

Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic outside his office

Tensions remain high between Mitrovica's ethnic Albanians who number about 72,000 and the 13,000-strong Serb community.

"In times of conflict and hatred, Oliver Ivanovic was a man of cooperation and tolerance".

"We urge all sides to avoid risky rhetoric and remain calm at this sensitive time", the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo said on its website amid fears the death of accused war criminal could trigger a wider eruption of violence. "It is our duty to not allow the world of the past to be dominated by these bullets".

"Serbs are more afraid of Serbs than Albanians", Ivanovic said at the time.

He earned a reputation for battling while studying by earning his black belt in karate and eventually winning a Kosovar martial-arts championship.

A Kosovo court convicted Ivanović of war crimes during the 1998-99 war.

Under pressure from the global community and European Union auspices, Kosovo and Serbia have been trying to normalise ties some 20 years since the start of the bloody war that claimed 13,000 lives, mostly ethnic Albanians.

The Kosovo government has strongly denounced the killing
The Kosovo government has strongly denounced the killing

Ivanovic was a Kosovo MP during 2001-2004. The southern province declared independence in 2008, which was never recognized by Belgrade. Ivanovic was sentenced to nine years in prison. But after a retrial was ordered he was released previous year and allowed to defend himself while free. The politician denied all the charges, saying that the case was politically motivated.

Soon after news of the shooting, a Serbian government delegation left scheduled EU-mediated talks in Brussels with Kosovo Albanians.

Some 40,000-50,000 ethnic Serbs live in northern Kosovo, rejecting integration with the mainly ethnic Albanian state.

He was considered a moderate politician, following a new political trend, and took part in all common avtivities with Albanian politicians in which he spoke in Albanian. In July, his vehicle was set on fire in Mitrovica, the Serb stronghold in northern Kosovo.

In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called a top state security meeting to discuss the shooting, and was later due to address the public.

Ivanović had been known as a moderate among Kosovo Serb politicians and had played a major role in negotiations with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union after the 1998-1999 Kosovo War.

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