Kosovo’s prime minister described the incident near the border as a “terrorist action” supported by officials from neighboring Serbia.
Gunfire was heard in an area of northern Kosovo, where at least 30 gunmen were surrounded by authorities hours after a patrol ambush in which a police officer was killed, according to Portal news agency.
The police officer was killed and another injured in a shootout in the village of Banjska on Sunday. This was the first such violence in months, which Prime Minister Albin Kurti said was supported by officials from neighboring Serbia.
“There are at least 30 professional, military or police gunmen who are surrounded by our police forces and whom I call on to surrender to our security agencies,” Kurti said during a press conference.
“Masked professionals armed with heavy weapons” opened fire at 3 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Sunday on a police patrol in the village of Banjska, Leposavic, 55 km (35 miles) north of the capital Pristina.
“Organized crime, which receives political, financial and logistical support from Belgrade, is attacking our state,” Kurti had previously written on his Facebook page.
“The Government of the Republic of Kosovo and its state institutions are ready and coordinated to respond to crime and criminals, terror and terrorists.”
Kosovo police added that two trucks without license plates blocked a bridge at the entrance to the village. Three police units were sent to clear the blockade, but came under fire from different positions with a variety of weapons, hand grenades and bombs.
The police managed to repel the attack and take two injured police officers to the hospital in the south of Mitrovica. One of them was dead on arrival, doctors said.
Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, who is in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, condemned the killing and the “attacks on the sovereignty of the Republic of Kosovo.”
“Such attacks once again demonstrate the destabilizing power of Serbian-based organized criminal gangs, which have long … destabilized Kosovo and the region,” she said.
Serbia has not yet commented on the incident or the accusation.
Tensions have been simmering in the former Serbian province for months after Kosovo decided last May to install ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-majority municipalities.
The decision sparked clashes that left more than 90 NATO peacekeepers and about 50 Serbian protesters injured in northern Kosovo.
Ethnic Albanians make up more than 90 percent of Kosovo’s population, with Serbs forming the majority only in the northern region near the Serbian border, where a merger of Serbian communities is planned.
European Union-sponsored talks on normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia, two former war foes, stalled again last week when the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell blamed Kurti for failing to do so , to establish the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, which would give them advantages of greater autonomy.
In February, the EU presented a 10-point plan to end months of political crises. Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic gave their approval at the time, but with some reservations that have still not been resolved.