PRISTINA, Kosovo – Armed assailants trying to break into the home of Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci exchanged fire with guards, but the leader was away and his family was not hurt, police said Saturday.
Police later said they had arrested a 19-year-old ethnic Albanian man suspected in the shooting. They said they found the suspect, who was already known to authorities, after a tip from his father.
The teenager has a wound to his arm, leading police to believe he was shot in a shootout with Thaci’s security guards.
Thaci condemned the assault as an attack upon his family and urged Kosovo’s citizens to remain calm.
“Last night my family was attacked,” Thaci told reporters in the capital, Pristina. “Like any parent and husband I am happy that my family is safe.”
“No one will have the power to threaten independence, democratic order, rule of law, the freedom and security of the citizen of the Republic of Kosovo,” Thaci said.
Police said the teenager told investigators he did not know he was breaking into the prime minister’s house and that he had only wanted to steal something.
Police said Thaci’s security guards spotted one person trying to break into the two-story house from the balcony of the top floor. They exchanged fire with an unknown number of assailants, who did not manage to get into the house. The attackers escaped but at least one was believed to be wounded because traces of blood were found.
Thaci, the former political head of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rebels, the Kosovo Liberation Army, is regarded as the key figure in pushing for Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. Kosovo declared independence on Feb. 17 following close coordination with Western capitals. The declaration is fiercely opposed by Serbia.
Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuqi said Thaci had been away on a private visit at the time of the attack. He said authorities have increased security measures for government officials.
Kuqi called the attack “a criminal act” and said, “it goes beyond any political hatred.”
Police began a search and tightened security at Kosovo’s border crossings to prevent the suspects from fleeing, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation.
The attackers were believed to have dragged the wounded assailant to a car and sped off, the official said.
Relations between ethnic Albanian political parties in Kosovo have been marked by tensions and bitter rivalry. Thaci heads an uneasy coalition government forged with the party of late pacifist President Ibrahim Rugova, once his main rival.
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