SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A gunman shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) attacked a police station in eastern Bosnia on Monday, killing one police officer and wounding two before he was shot dead, a police spokeswoman said.
The attack occurred at around 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) in Zvornik, a town in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated autonomous region, the Serb Republic, which together with the Bosniak-Croat Federation makes up the Bosnia that emerged from the 1992-95 war.
“This is the worst terrorism attack that could happen in the Serb Republic,” regional Interior Minister Dragan Lukac told local television, adding that security levels had been raised after the attack.
Lukac identified the attacker as 24-year-old Nerdin Ibric from a village near Zvornik. He said the attack was carried out while police officers were changing shifts, and that he obviously knew that most officers would be present at that time.
He said that Ibric drove his car to the police station and opened fire with a shot gun, killing a policemen before he stormed into the station and wounded two other officers. He was then killed in an exchange of fire.
Ibric also had a pistol and pockets filled with ammunition, while another shot gun was found in his car.
Lukac told the Serb Republic television that a man from Ibric’s village said he had acted in a strange way in recent days and prayed in a local mosque in an unusual way.
“We have all indications that he was connected to the Wahhabi movement,” he said, referring to the followers of the puritanical Sunni Wahhabi sect whose numbers have grown in Bosnia after the war under the influence of foreign fighters who had fought on the side of Bosnian Muslims against Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats.
Doctors said the police officers’ wounds were not life-threatening.
This was the first attack of its kind in the Serb Republic, though similar ones have occurred in the Federation, including a 2010 bomb attack on a police station in central Bosnia and an attack on the U.S. embassy in the capital Sarajevo a year later.
“What happened in Zvornik is a classic terrorist attack that deserves utmost condemnation,” said the chairman of Bosnia’s three-man inter-ethnic presidency Mladen Ivanic, a Bosnian Serb.
Most Bosnian Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam but some have become radicalised after the war, in which most victims were Muslims. The government estimates that up to 200 have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State group.
Thousands of Muslim Bosniaks were expelled from Zvornik by Serb forces during the war but some have since returned.
Lukac said that special police forces were sent to the area to help prevent any incidents out of retaliation against Muslims there. “We shall see if this had been planned or was an individual act,” he added.
The presidency and central government, as well as the Serb Republic government, called emergency sessions on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Andrew Hay