BELGRADE, Serbia — A Balkans war veteran went on a shooting spree Tuesday in a village near Belgrade, killing 13 people as he hunted them down from house to house before turning the gun on himself, police said.
Two additional victims were critically wounded, police said.
The man, identified as Ljubisa Bogdanovic, 60, began his rampage in the village of Velika Ivanca, 30 miles south of Belgrade, where he shot his mother, wife and 42-year-old son at dawn.
He then went from house to house, killing five men, six women and a 2-year-old boy in five separate households, Serbian police director Milorad Veljovic said.
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Bogdanovic next shot himself when he saw a police patrol car arrive at the scene. He and his wife were both hospitalized in critical condition, doctors at the Belgrade emergency clinic said.
In an emergency Cabinet meeting, the government declared April 10 a day of mourning.
Veljovic, the police chief, confirmed that the shooter took part in fighting in Croatia in the 1990s as the former Yugoslavia collapsed, and that he lost his job two years ago. Neighbors said Bogdanovic and his slain son had both lost their jobs two years ago.
A war-veterans organization said the massacre “shocked and surprised only those unaware” of the problems that former fighters face.
No motive was immediately apparent, police said. Bogdanovic had no criminal records and no history of psychiatric problems.
“Many of our warriors are not adequately taken care of, so we can expect these things to happen,” Vlajko Panovic, a psychiatrist at the Serbian military academy hospital, told Beta news agency.
Widespread poverty and economic hopelessness in Serbia only aggravates the situation, he said. “It breeds depression, and depression breeds murder and suicide.”
The wars from 1991 to 1999 as Yugoslavia broke up took up to 200,000 lives, turned millions into refugees and left much of the region’s people traumatized and heavily armed. It was the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II.
The millions of weapons that remained in possession of civilians after the fighting have caused fatalities every week, as traumatized former soldiers either shoot family members or commit suicide or children find guns at home and die while playing with them.
All of the seven new countries that emerged have banned civilians from owning weapons with varying degrees of success.
Serbia has about 3 million weapons owned by civilians, according to the Small Arms Survey, a nongovernmental organization from Switzerland. It says Serbia has the fifth-highest number of weapons per capita in the world, with some 38 firearms for every 100 people.
In contrast, the United States has 88.8 weapons per 100 people and leads the list worldwide, with Yemen second at 54.8 arms per 100 people. England and Wales are low down on the list with 6.2 weapons per 100 people.
Tuesday’s killings are the worst in modern Serbia, where thousands suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the conflicts in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo from 1991-99.
In 2007, Nikola Radisavljevic, a mentally disturbed man, shot to death nine people and wounded two in Jabukovac.
He remains in psychiatric treatment.
Dragan Cedic killed seven people and wounded four with a Kalashnikov in Leskovac in 2002. He fled after the shootings, and his body was recovered 40 days later in the wilderness. Police said he had shot himself.