Serbian authorities say police have arrested about 40 people believed to be linked to an organized crime group blamed for Wednesday's assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
The suspects were detained early Thursday. Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac said many others, including a former special police commander Milorad Lukovic, are still in hiding.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ZARKO KORAC
"We are dealing here with organized crime, but first of all with [a] terrorist act. It is an attempt to destabilize the country, to block the reforms that are going on.”
Officials say the assassination was an attempt by the group to crush the prime minister’s fight against organized crime.
ZORAN DJINDJIC, SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER
"Our basic priority is therefore to curb corruption, abuse of power and crime. This has to start by vanquishing crime, corruption and abuse of power from the government and the ministries themselves.”
Mr. Djindjic was shot on the very day that his cabinet was to sign warrants for the arrests of Mr. Lukovic and others.
The government has declared three days of official mourning and a state of emergency -- under which the military will take over police functions. Javier Solana, the European Union security police chief stressed that the country is stable.
JAVIER SOLANA, THE EUROPEAN UNION SECURITY POLICE CHIEF
"I like to think that the stability of the country is guaranteed, that the leaders of the country are responsible people that will be able to handle the situation properly. I don't think that we have to create any sense of instability or panic, on the contrary.”
Mr. Djindjic died Wednesday at a Belgrade hospital where he underwent surgery for two gunshot wounds.
Leaders around the world praised the prime minister’s efforts to reform the Balkan country. Mr. Djindjic helped overthrow President Slobodan Milosevic and send him to face trial on charges of orchestrating genocide in the Balkans.
The conflict-ridden region now has neither a prime minister nor an elected president.