Gunman kills 13 people in Serbian village

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VELIKA IVANCA, Serbia -- He went from house to house in the village at dawn, cold-bloodedly gunning down his mother, his son, a 2-year-old cousin and 10 other neighbors. Terrified residents said that if a police patrol car hadn't shown up, they all would have been dead.

Police said they knew of no motive yet in the carnage Tuesday that left six men, six women and a child dead in Velika Ivanca, a Serbian village 30 miles southeast of Belgrade.

After the rampage, police said suspect Ljubisa Bogdanovic, a 60-year-old who saw action in one of the bloodiest sieges of the Balkan wars, turned his gun on himself and his wife as authorities closed in. Both were in grave condition at a hospital in the Serbian capital.

In the small lush village surrounded by fruit trees, the suspect's older brother Radmilo broke down in tears, unable to explain why the massacre had happened.

"Why did he do it? ... I still can't believe it," he said sobbing, covering his face with his hands. "He was a model of honesty. As a child, he was a frightened little boy. I used to defend him from other children. He couldn't even slaughter a chicken," he said.

But he said his brother had changed after serving in the army during a brutal Serb-led offensive against the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar in 1992 -- the worst bloodshed during Croatia's 1991-95 war for independence.

"The war had burdened him," Radmilo Bogdanovic, 62, said in an interview. "He used to tell me: 'God forbid you live through what I went through.' ... Something must have clicked in his head for him to do this."

Twelve people in the village were killed immediately between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. and one person died later in a Belgrade hospital, Serbian police Chief Milorad Veljovic said. "Most of the victims were shot while they were asleep," the chief told reporters. "The most harrowing scene discovered by police was the dead bodies of a young mother and her 2-year-old son."

Although such mass shootings are relatively rare in Serbia, weapons are readily available, mostly from the 1990s wars in the Balkans. Media reports said the suspect had a license for the handgun, and police said he had lost his job last year at a wood-processing factory.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said the killings showed that the government must pay more attention to gun control and other social problems facing the Balkan nation, which is still reeling from the 1990s wars. His government held an emergency session and proclaimed today a national day of mourning.

Doctors later Tuesday said the suspect's condition was critical, but his wife, who had called police before she was shot, was able to communicate with hospital staff.

Serbia's last big shooting spree occurred in 2007, when a 39-year-old man gunned down nine people and injured two others in the eastern village of Jabukovac.

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