By Dusica Tomovic
Police sent anti-terrorist units to the coastal town of Kotor on Monday night to prevent more armed clashes between drug gangs after a series of murders and shootings in recent months.
The Interior Ministry has warned that the situation in Kotor is “alarming” after violence between criminal gangs caused it to deploy anti-terrorist officers to the coastal town on Monday.
The authorities fear that the violence could jeopardise the tourist season in Kotor, which is visited each year by thousands of foreign tourists on luxury cruise ships.
Interior minister Goran Danilovic, who also travelled to Kotor on Monday along with prosecutors, said that if there are no concrete results in resolving the violence by Thursday, he will hold everyone who has been participating in the investigation responsible.
“Kotor is now on lockdown,” Danilovic said.
“If the people who are still at large (and everything is being done to get evidence) are not brought to justice, nothing else can be a guarantee [of security] for us. Kotor must cease to be the centre of clashes between rival criminal gangs,” he added.
He said that the developments in the town exceeded the jurisdiction of local police and the entire security and justice sector must get involved in tackling the problem.
The latest gunfight broke out in Kotor on Friday, only a few hours after police director Slavko Stojanovic sent a special unit to the town as a “guarantee that there will be no new clashes”.
A small resort with a medieval old town in the Boka Bay, which is on UNESCO’s of world heritage list, Kotor made headlines a decade ago after it was found that the Balkan drug baron Darko Sarcic had begun to invest huge sums of money there, mostly in the tourism sector.
One of the biggest discotheques on the Adriatic Sea, Maximus, which attracts thousands of guests every summer, was reportedly managed by one of Saric’s companies founded in Kotor in the mid-2000s.
In a first-instance verdict in July 2015, Belgrade’s Special Court for Organized Crime jailed Saric for 20 years for smuggling cocaine from Latin America.
The court also convicted around 30 other defendants, 14 of whom are still on the run, for smuggling more than five tons of cocaine from South America in 2008 and 2009, giving them jail sentences of five months to 20 years.
The first shootouts erupted in Kotor in 2008, and two years later, one of Saric’s closest associates, Zoran Fric Dudic, was shot dead on the main town square in daylight.
In the last three months, Kotor has seen six armed clashes between rival drug clans and in April, Srdjan Vlahovic, who was reportedly linked to one of the narcotics kingpins, was murdered.
Amid public discontent about the violence, a special investigation team from the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organised Crime and Corruption is expected to take on the cases.
The Prosecutor’s Office said on Monday that until the Special Prosecutor takes a decision to do this, it will continue to deal with the investigations as quickly as possible.
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