A man blew himself up in front of the US embassy in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica after throwing a grenade inside the building on Wednesday night, according to the government of Montenegro.
“At half past midnight in front of the building of the United States Embassy in Montenegro, an unknown person committed suicide with an explosive device. Immediately before, that person threw an explosive device from the intersection near the Sport Center into the U.S. embassy compound.” The device was most probably a hand grenade, the Montenegrin government said on its official Twitter account.
Montenegrin police have declined to confirm reports featured on state television that the attacker was a 43-year old Serbian man living in Podgorica.
The United States Embassy in Podgorica has confirmed that “a small explosion” occurred near the building. “The embassy officials are currently working closely with the police to identify the attacker(s),” a spokesman for the State Department said. The US diplomatic mission, which will remain closed on February 22, asked in a statement to US nationals to “avoid the embassy in Podgorica until further notice”.
“All appropriate state bodies are undertaking measures and activities with the aim of resolving this case and securing full safety and security of the U.S. embassy’s staff,” Montenegro’s interior minister, Mevludin Nuhodzic, said in a video message.
Attacks against US embassies have occurred in the past in the Balkan region. The US embassy in Sarajevo was targeted in October 2011 by a terrorist attack. An Islamist, Mevlid Jasarevic, fired an automatic weapon against the building for nearly an hour. He had wounded a police officer, before being wounded by a sniper himself and arrested. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Since 2012, a thousand nationals from Western Balkan countries have joined the ranks of jihadists to fight in Syria and Iraq. Among these jihadists, 23 came from Montenegro.
Montenegro joined NATO in the spring of 2017, which caused opposition from a large part of the population of this small, predominantly Slavic country of 660,000 inhabitants.