By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — A gunman opened fire today on the United States embassy in Bosnia’s capital city of Sarajevo, injuring at least two people in what the country’s president has called a “terrorist attack.”
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the gunman may be a radical Islamist.
RFE/RL’s Balkan Service reports that the assailant has been wounded.
Police spokesman Irfan Nefic later confirmed to Bosnia’s national BHT television station that the gunman was “wounded and arrested during the police operation.”
A video posted online purportedly shows the gunman, wearing a long brown coat and a beard, calmly walking near the U.S. embassy carrying an automatic weapon, possibly a Kalashnikov rifle.
Without citing the source of their information, Bosnian national radio described man as “aged around 40” and a member of the ultraconservative Wahhabi branch of Islam.
Bosnian TV later identified the shooter as Mevlid Jasarevic from the city of Novi Pazar in southwestern Serbia, which is home to a community of Bosnian Muslims who live in the country. The television network also identified the man as a Wahabi follower, but did not cite its sources.
An eyewitness to the incident, who gave his name as Admir, told RFE/RL by phone from his car that the shooting spree lasted some 10 minutes as police rushed onto the scene.
“There was the sound of automatic weapon fire like in a war. Individual shots were heard. It didn’t last just a minute or two. It was a full ten minutes,” he said.
The Associated Press reports that police captured the shooter after a 30-minute standoff as frightened pedestrians watched from behind buildings and vehicles.
The U.S. embassy confirmed the incident, and said it has closed down. It later said that all staff member were safe.
Police have established a security cordon near the embassy, which is located in the city’s central business, university, and shopping district.
Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosnian Muslim member of the country’s three-member presidency, said in a statement that he strongly condemns “the terrorist attack on the embassy of the United States in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
He called for a speedy investigation into the shooting spree and said the United States is a “proven friend of Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
Doctor Bakir Nakas, who spoke to RFE/RL’s Balkan Service by phone from a Sarajevo hospital, said that one of the people wounded in the attack was an embassy security guard.
“This afternoon we received a patient who is a security guard at the American Embassy. He has wounds in his both ankles. He is going into surgery, but his life is not threatened,” Nakas said.
Muhamed Budimlic, the Interior Minister of the Sarajevo Canton, told reporters that one policeman was also injured.
The U.S. embassy in Sarajevo closed briefly in March 2002 citing an unspecified threat, but the building has not previously come under attack.