Skip to content

Ambulances and police officers arrive following a shooting at a school in the Serbian capital Belgrade on 3 May 2023. (Photo by OLIVER BUNIC/AFP via Getty Images)

School Shooter in Serbia Planned Attack for a Month, Officials Say

A seventh-grade student opened fire at his school in Serbia this morning, killing eight children and a security officer. Six children and a teacher were also wounded at Vladislav Ribnikar primary school in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, according to authorities.

The 13-year-old shooter, identified by police as a student of the school (students in the primary school range from ages 6 to 15), allegedly used his father’s handgun. The gun was kept in a safe, but the teenager knew the code, said Interior Minister Bratislav Gašić. The shooter’s father was also arrested.

The shooter first killed the security guard at the school—who tried to stop the shooting, local channel N1 reported—and then three students in a hallway before entering a classroom and opening fire, according to the Associated Press. The assailant called the police himself when the attack was over, although authorities had already been alerted to the danger. Police detained the shooter.

The teenager had allegedly drawn sketches of classrooms and wrote a list of people he intended to target, police said. He had been planning the attack for a month, they alleged. The suspect left his bag on his way into the school and had prepared four Molotov cocktails, according to Serbian officials.

Most of the students were evacuated out of a back door of the school, said Milan Nedeljkovic, the major of the Belgrade area of Vracar, where the shooting occurred.

“We have video surveillance, but now this is a lesson, we need metal detectors too,” Nedeljkovic said. “It is a huge tragedy...something like this (happening) in Belgrade. Such a tragedy at an elementary school.”

In a press conference, the Serbian education minister, Branko Ružić, confirmed that the suspect had been a victim of peer violence outside of school property. He added that the government has a special working group on peer violence and would be preparing laws and bylaws to address the issue, the BBC reported.

“This is just part of the puzzle when it comes to peer violence—it is a social phenomenon, it’s not something that occurs only in school,” Ružić said.

UNICEF—the United Nations’ children’s agency—released a statement offering condolences to the survivors and the families and friends of the victims, advocating for increased mental health awareness and support, The Washington Post reported.

“We, as a society, cannot afford to ignore the mental health needs of our children and young people,” the UNICEF statement said. “We need to take concrete steps to identify and support those who are struggling with mental health issues and create a society that promotes mental health and wellbeing for all. This includes ensuring access to mental health services and support for children and young people, as well as promoting a safe and nurturing environment in schools and communities.”

Mass shootings are rare in Serbia, and none have been reported at schools in recent years. The last mass shooting occurred in 2013, when a Balkan war veteran killed 13 people in a Serbian village.

Experts have warned that the large number of firearms in Serbia—after the wars of the 1990s—combined with decades of instability could trigger more violent episodes, the AP reported.