'I cried all day': Serbia reels after deadly school shooting
Belgrade (AFP) -
Serbia was in mourning on Thursday a day after a 13-year-old suspect shot dead eight fellow students and a security guard after allegedly drawing up a kill list.
The tragedy has left the Balkan nation reeling. Gun violence at schools is extremely rare in Serbia and the country's president called Wednesday's shooting 'one of the most difficult days' in recent history.
On Thursday, schools across Serbia held a moment of silence, while a leading mental health institute in Belgrade opened a crisis hotline to provide psychological support to students, teachers and the families affected by the shooting.
'I cried all day yesterday. My son went to school here,' Mileva Milosevic, an 85-year-old retired lawyer living near the school, told AFP.
'I'll never forget this, because I have to walk here every day, while I can.'
The Vladislav Ribnikar elementary school in downtown Belgrade's Vracar district remained sealed off on Thursday, with police guarding the entrance to the building.
Hundreds continued to flock to the school to pay their respects, placing flowers, toys and lighting candles at a makeshift memorial on the pavement.
'Where are we as human beings, where is our empathy? Where did we all fail to see the problem, both with a person who did this, and with all the other people that have led this to happen?' asked Belgrade resident Ana Djuric, 37, as she walked near the school.
Health officials said two of the seven injured remained in critical condition after undergoing a string of operations.
- Mourning across country -
Serbia will observe three days of mourning starting Friday. It comes at what is usually a festive time with people flocking outdoors to celebrate spring.
The interior ministry issued an appeal to all firearm owners to keep their guns locked in safes -- warning that people who did not abide would have their weapons seized.
During a national address hours after the shooting, President Aleksandar Vucic proposed a string of measures to curb gun violence, including a two-year moratorium on issuing permits for firearms.
The president also said the suspected shooter -- a student at Vladislav Ribnikar -- would be held in custody in a 'psychiatric ward', after prosecutors said he would not stand trial as he was a minor.
Authorities said he was armed with two pistols -- one in his backpack and one that he used.
Belgrade police chief Veselin Milic said the suspect 'planned the shooting for a month and made a list of kids he planned to kill'.
Meanwhile, thousands of people gathered at squares in other Serbian cities like Nis and Kragujevac to pay their respects to the shooting victims, local media reported.
People lit candles and laid flowers for the victims also in the Croatian capital Zagreb and the Bosnian Serb administrative capital of Banja Luka.
Masses for the victims were served in Belgrade churches with head of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Patriarch Porfirije, who earlier called the shooting a 'catastrophe, the likes of which has never happened in our nation and our homeland', serving the one in the city's giant Saint Sava temple.
In the Serbian capital, an Euroleague basketball playoff game between Real Madrid and Partizan Belgrade, whose players were wearing shirts with the school's name, started with a minute of silence for the victims. A player from each club addressed the crowd to pay their respects after which fans threw flowers in the arena.