Extremist violence on the rise in Serbia, Australian tourist attacked
Yesterday Australian tourists became the target of attacks by Serb extremists in the center of Belgrade. One man suffered light head wounds and was hospitalized. Police are now searching for the group of men who beat up the 25-year-old foreigner. Friends of the victim who spoke with the B92 television station said the group of young assailants had followed them around on the streets before attacking them.
The incident is the second attack on foreigners in Belgrade in one week. Last Thursday, fans of the local Partizan football club attacked a 28-year-old Frenchman. He is currently in critical condition in the hospital after undergoing an operation on Saturday.
Ten people were detained in relation to that incident, including the presumed organizer of the attack. The Serbian General Prosecutor said the men might be charged with attempted murder. If so, they would face between 30 and 40 years in prison.
The threat posed by extremist groups has begun to grow in Serbia. They are also responsible for the cancellation of the Gay Pride parade that was to have taken place yesterday in the center of Belgrade. Authorities decided to cancel the march because the police said they were unable to guarantee the security of the participants. It was to have been the first Gay Pride parade in Belgrade since 2001; that event ended in violence when police forces were not able to detain the ultra-nationalist assailants, who were joined by football fans and skinheads.
The current pro-Western government has promised it will take strict measures against ultra-right groups. Yesterday police arrested 30 people suspected of membership in extremist groups on suspicion of petty crimes. Those detained include prominent leaders of the main ultra-nationalist groups. Police found they were already armed with concealed stones and the torches usually used during violent clashes.