Gunmen battle police in Kosovo monastery siege

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STORY: Officials in Kosovo released images of heavily armed men who they say opened fire at police in the northern village of Banjska on Sunday.

Police said one officer and three of the armed attackers died in the shootouts.

Officials said the group of about 30 attackers also stormed a nearby Serbian Orthodox monastery, where monks and pilgrims were locked in as the siege raged on for hours.

It was unclear who exactly was behind Sunday's violence, but Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti blamed "Serbia-sponsored criminals.”

The incident marked the first major regional violence since May in the north, a mostly ethnic Serbian region of Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanians form the vast majority of the population of Kosovo, a former province of Serbia.

The Serbs have never accepted Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence and still see Belgrade as their capital more than two decades after a Kosovo Albanian guerrilla uprising against repressive Serbian rule.

Police on Sunday said the attackers first positioned heavy vehicles on a bridge into the village. They shot at police who approached them before heading to the nearby monastery.

Journalists were barred from entering the village.

Local media said Kosovo border police closed two crossings with Serbia.