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Serbian PM Brushes Off Weapons Discovery Near His Residence

  • VOA News

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a press conference, in Belgrade, Serbia, Oct. 30, 2016. Vucic and his family were moved to a safe location after a cache of weapons was found Saturday near his residence outside Belgrade.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a press conference, in Belgrade, Serbia, Oct. 30, 2016. Vucic and his family were moved to a safe location after a cache of weapons was found Saturday near his residence outside Belgrade.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic sought to reassure the public about his safety on Sunday, a day after the discovery of a weapons cache hidden near his home that forced police to evacuate him and his family from their residence.

Vucic, speaking in Belgrade, cautioned against equating the weapons discovery with an assassination attempt, telling reporters: "Nobody touched me."

The weapons, which included hand grenades, a rocket launcher, a sniper rifle and ammunition, were found in a trunk in bushes near a crossroads where Vucic's motorcade normally slows down while heading toward his home. Police on Saturday said the weaponry was first reported by a tipster.

Serbia is overflowing with illegal weapons left from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and it is not uncommon for people to discard those munitions to avoid having them discovered in their possession by police.

Vucic said Sunday that pending DNA analysis likely will show whether the munitions were part of that surplus, or whether they pointed to something more sinister, as other top government officials have suggested.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said a preliminary investigation shows the rocket launcher was used in fighting during the 1991-1995 Croatian war, and that the hand grenades came from Bosnia-Herzegovina, also the site of deadly fighting during that period.

President Tomislav Nikolic described the weapons discovery as "very serious," and said Sunday that security officials must provide full details about the cache and how it ended up so close to Vucic's home.

Saturday's discovery comes 13 years after then-prime minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated by a sniper outside government headquarters in central Belgrade.

Djindjic was the first democratically elected head of government in Serbia since the ouster in 2000 of nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic, who later died in prison while on trial for war crimes stemming from the Balkan wars.

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