„Serb priests spotted in the police station in Pristina“ – reads the headline published by Indeksonline this morning. Periskopi, while publishing close-up pictures of the monks, wrote: „The night after the murder of the Kosovo policeman, Serb priests spotted in Pristina at the police station.“ Stories were also published that link the Serbian Orthodox Church with the terrorist attacks in the north, as yesterday’s incidents have been described in Pristina.
„The night after the serious situation that unfolded in the north of Mitrovica, Serb priests were spotted near police station 92 in Pristina. Three clerics were seen at the entrance to the police station in the center of Pristina in the early hours of Monday. Their arrival in Pristina is probably linked to the fate of pilgrims who were taken advantage of by Serbian terrorists in Banjska and Zvecan. It is expected that the clergy will answer for the Banjska monastery, which was used as a hideout for terrorists yesterday, and how a religious building was also turned into a weapons storage facility,“ Indeksonline writes.
The news, however, proved to be false. As KoSSev discovered from church sources, as well as by identifying the monks, the photographed clergy are actually monks from Visoki Decani who traveled to Pristina for a regular procedures related to obtaining Kosovo IDs, which has been one of the most difficult issues the clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo has been facing for years. Moreover, two of the three monks who were photographed are blind.
Meanwhile, Koha countered the reports of Indeksonline. With the title „Priests requested a residence permit, the Kosovo police have not yet met with them“, reffering to the director of the Department for Migration and Foreigners, Kushtrim Haliti, who confirmed that the monks came to the central police station to extend their residence permit, and not to be questioned by the KP.
While noting that the media reported that the priests had gone to the police station to be questioned because of the recent events in the north, they denied those allegations, adding Haliti’s statement that they were from a completely different monastery (not Banjska).
In the village of Banjska in the municipality of Zvecan, a sergeant of the Kosovo Police was killed in an ambush on the night between Saturday and Sunday, while three police officers were wounded.
During the day, the main news became the conflicts that were concentrated around the Banjska monastery itself. The number of victims increased, and four suspected attackers were also shot dead.
The Diocese of Raska-Prizren confirmed in the early hours of the morning that a group of armed, masked people with armored vehicles broke into the monastery courtyard by breaking down the locked monastery gate. At the same time, they expressed condolences to the family of the murdered sergeant of the Kosovo Police and condemned the tragic events.
However, even before that, some Kosovo media published photos of the Banjska monastery with the statement that „the attackers are barricaded in the monastery“, including images from Google Maps, thus marking it as the place where the police were shot at.
„This is the place that is believed the attackers who killed the Kosovo policeman in the north made an ambush (…). It is suspected that they barricaded themselves inside the monastery in Banjska, where they also shot at the police,“ wrote Klan Kosova, Both Sot, Jepi I ze.
However, KoSSev received information from church circles close to the monastery at the time that it was false information. The monastery complex, as well as the monastery itself, were locked.
„There are no attackers, nor were there any. Yesterday, a group of about 50 believers from Novi Sad arrived at the monastery with their priest. They are still there, everything is blocked so they cannot leave the monastery, they are terrified. They were woken up this morning around 2 by strong detonations, there was a lot of shooting from the surrounding hills, and everything shook,“ our source stated early Sunday morning.
They soon confirmed in a special statement that the attackers had forcibly entered the courtyard of the monastery, but that the lodgings and the monastery remained locked.
During the day, the Diocese announced that this group withdrew, that is, left the monastery complex, and that in the evening, the Kosovo Police, together with EULEX, and the head of EULEX Barbano himself entered the monastery.
According to KoSSev’s findings, the attackers first broke into the guest house located outside of the monastery complex, but right next to the monastery walls, drove out the pilgrims from Novi Sad who had spent the night there, and who then retreated to the inner monastery complex and locked the gate. After some time, this group of armed attackers broke into the monastery itself with an armored vehicle, breaking the gate.
Also, in the late police statement about the large arsenal of weapons found in certain buildings and vehicles, including those used by the attackers around the monastery walls, it was not stated that the weapons were found in the monastery. KoSSev unofficially learned from at least two sources connected to the search that no weapons were found in the monastery.
The clergy perceived the incident, that is, the intrusion of an armed group into the monastery, as an attack on the monastery.
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