Serbian officer shot with crossbow outside embassy

A forensics officer is seen near a crossbow that has been cordened off by police on the road outside the Israeli embassy in Belgrade.
The attacker used a crossbow (bottom right), injuring the police officer in the neck [Reuters]

A police officer has been injured in a crossbow attack outside the Israeli embassy in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Interior Minister Ivica Dacic told reporters that the officer had subsequently shot and killed the assailant.

The attacker - who authorities say was Serbian - hit the policeman in the neck with an arrow, Mr Dacic said. The officer, Milos Jevremovic, underwent surgery and is no longer in a serious condition, authorities have said.

Officials have described the assailant as a Muslim convert and classified the attack as "terrorist" in nature.

Mr Dacic said the attacker had approached a small building at the front of the Israeli embassy several times around 11:00 (09:00 GMT), purportedly asking about a museum.

He then opened the door to the small building, removed a crossbow and shot the officer, Mr Dacic said. The officer then returned fire and the assailant died about half an hour later.

Serbian authorities named the attacker as Milos Zujovic, who was born in 1999 in the town of Mladenovac, around 30 miles (48km) from the capital, before moving to Novi Pazar - the cultural centre of the Bosniak Muslim minority.

They said that after converting to Islam, he went by the "religious name" Salahudin.

The Israeli foreign ministry said the embassy had been closed at the time of the incident and that no employees had been injured.

Mr Dacic said the case had been taken over by special prosecutors, who had subsequently declared the incident a "terrorist act".

As a result, he had increased Serbia's threat level to red - initiating a greater police presence around potential targets, as well as searches of locations where plotting is suspected.

Earlier in the day, Mr Dacic said that several individuals had been arrested as a precautionary measure.

While the interior minister suggested the attack may have been part of a larger threat, Serbian Prime Minister Milos Vucevic called it "a crime of an individual".

In comments quoted by the Beta news agency, he described the incident as "an act of insanity, which cannot be attributed to any religion and any nation".

Mr Vucevic urged the public to "remain calm and not succumb to propaganda" that might encourage hate crimes.

Both the prime minister and interior minister characterised the incident as a "terrorist act".

Mr Dacic's office later said that Igor Despotovic, also born in 1999, from Belgrade, had been arrested after allegedly being found to have had "daily communication" with Zujovic. It also said Despotovic was arrested two years ago for running online extremist groups, in a case that is ongoing.

Serbian authorities said police were still searching for another person believed to harbour the same views as Zujovic, who may take several days to locate and arrest.

President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters that there were "several more persons that we are looking for", according to news agency AFP.

Mr Dacic said on Saturday afternoon that police operations were ongoing in several locations across the country.

Israeli ambassador to Serbia Yahel Vilan wrote on X/Twitter that he was "deeply shocked" by the attack, and thanked Mr Jevremovic, "who courageously prevented the attack".

Meanwhile, Serbia's top Islamic cleric, Senad Halitovic, condemned the attack. According to AFP, he said: "Such crimes are against all religious teachings, especially the teachings of Islam. Today's crime is the work of a mindless individual."

The incident in Belgrade is not the first time someone has seemingly attempted to attack an Israeli embassy since 7 October, when Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel, and Israel launched a campaign to destroy Hamas in Gaza.

After visiting Mr Jevremovic in hospital, Mr Vucic said that he was conscious and would be honoured for his actions as soon as he is discharged.