A tense calm returned Sunday, June 3, to the Serb-controlled area of Bosnia-Herzegovina after a priest was shot in the head and his wife abused by armed robbers amid concerns the attack could raise religious tensions in the volatile region, police and activists said.
Police said Serbian Orthodox Priest Sava Todorovic was injured but survived after armed “masked robbers” entering his residence, tied, physically abused and shot him early Thursday, May 31.
His wife, Jelica Todorovic, “was also bound and physically abused” during the attack in Kalenderovci village, near the town of Derventa in Bosnia’s Republic Srpska.
Neighbors reportedly noted the robbers who apparently jumped out of a window and ran away. “When fleeing the perpetrators fired several shots from a firearm, but no one was hurt,” police said in a statement distributed by Centar 9, or ‘Center 9′ in English, a major Balkan religious rights watchdog.
The injured couple was rushed to a nearby hospital, activists and police said.
Todorovic was later brought to the main Clinical Medical Centre Banja Luka where he is treated for his head injury but listed in stable condition, said Centar 9′s General Secretary Drasko Djenovic.
“His injuries are not life threatening but it is possible that he will have surgery of the head,” he told BosNewsLife.
It was not immediately clear what motivated the robbers. However, “due to the complicated religious and ethical population situation in Bosnia, it is not sure whether this case was just a robbery or whether it has a religious intolerance background as well,” added Djenovic.
Over 100,000 people died during the bloody Balkan ethnic wars of the 1990s, most of them in Bosnia.
The church in Kalenderovci is part of the Zvornik-Tuzla Diocesa of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the region.