Serbian police have launched an operation against human smugglers after two armed clashes killed one person and wounded three others.
The armed clashes between human smugglers took place between rival gangs in the northern city of Subotica.
“A police operation to suppress irregular migration is ongoing in several cities, particularly aimed at suppressing the smuggling of migrants,” police told reporters.
According to media reports, the operation has already found several weapons in connection with the human smugglers.
The northern border of Serbia, along the EU border, has major issues with smuggling gangs. Most of those smuggled are of Afghan and Moroccan origin. Clashes between rival gangs have spiked in recent days.
One person was found dead following an armed clash in a forest near Hajdukovo village, near the border area with Hungary, on Monday evening.
The Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Subotica carried out an investigation, and the death was classified a murder. Three others were injured in the incident.
Another armed clash took place between people smugglers near the Lidl supermarket in Subotica on Friday. Police reported that one person ultimately died after being hospitalized for several days.
Rival human smugglers from Afghanistan, Morocco and Syria have begun arming themselves in northern Serbia, typically with weapons supplied to them from Albanian crime gangs in Albania, Kosovo and southern Serbia.
“They [smugglers] are smart,” one smuggler told reporters in an investigation earlier this month, “they give the police a few Kalashnikovs, pistols, and they have a lot more. And they can always buy more from the Albanians.”
“I believe that corruption in the Serbian police makes it easier for smugglers to operate, as well as the acquisition of weapons,” explained Fatjona Mejdini, director for Southeast Europe at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC).
Clashes between rival gangs have begun taking place closer to urban areas, too. In November 2022, a gunfight between Moroccans and Afghans in the center of Horgos, a town on the border, left six people wounded.
A video of that particular incident showed armed men running past the local elementary school. In June and July of this year, one Afghan individual was killed, and five others wounded, in armed clashes between rival gangs.
The EU border with the Balkan region has long been a contentious area for authorities committed to tackling human smuggling operations. Alleged collusion between gangs and police officers has only worsened the problem.
Image via Wikimedia