Tens of thousands in Serbia protest against mass shootings



Tens of thousands in Belgrade attended an anti-government protest on Saturday over two mass shootings that killed 18 people.

On May 3, a teenage boy killed nine pupils and a security guard in Belgrade in the first school mass shooting in Serbia, and a day later a 21-year-old man killed eight outside the city.

Opposition parties, which organized the rally, have blamed the government led by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) for failing to act against criminal elements in society. It was the fourth such protest in as many weeks, with demonstrators turning up in similar numbers to the previous three rallies despite bad weather.

The government has denied opposition parties' allegations, and accused them of staging protests for political gain.

On Friday, tens of thousands of people bussed-in from across Serbia, neighboring Montenegro, Bosnia and North Macedonia rallied in the center of Belgrade in a show of support for President Aleksandar Vucic.

On Saturday, Vucic stepped down from the helm of the SNS, appointing Defense Minister Milos Vucevic as his successor. He said that he would remain as head of state and continue to be a party member.

The president also noted that he would form a new national movement in June to include other parties, experts and prominent individuals and will promote unity.

"A successful Serbia that will focus on its citizens, for a country that will not look for reasons for division, but for unification and togetherness," he told the SNS congress.

The country's situation worsened on Friday due to clashes between police and protesters in northern Kosovo as protesters tried to prevent a newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayor from entering his office in the Kosovo town of Zvecan. At least four people have been injured in the clashes, according to local reports.

In response, Vucic has placed the country's army on full combat alert and ordered its units to move closer to Kosovo.