Following a second shooting spree within a week, the Serbian president announced a harsh crackdown on guns.
Serbian police have arrested the 21-year-old suspect in a shooting that killed eight people, including an off-duty police officer, and injured another 14.
In a statement, police said that the man, identified by initials UB, was arrested early Friday after a drive-by shooting spree that began in the village of Dubona near Mladenovac, and then continued in Malo Orašje and Šepšin.
Mladenovac is found in central Serbia, about 100 kilometres south of Belgrade.
The arrest followed an all-night manhunt by hundreds of police officers, who sealed off the area south of Belgrade where the shooting took place late Thursday.
Since then, police have raided the second shooter's weekend home and found a large collection of additional weapons.
The shooting came a day after a 13-year-old boy used his father’s guns to kill eight fellow students and a guard at a school in Belgrade.
"For the second time in 48 hours, we have to address the public with difficult news," Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić told journalists in Belgrade. "This repeated criminal act and indiscriminate shooting of people randomly standing in front of their doors, after the attack on our children, is an attack on our entire country," he continued.
'A nationwide campaign of disarmament is needed'
Vučić announced the government would take new measures to crack down on the availability of weapons in the country and establish strict controls on those who have licenses to possess them.
"Just like many other countries faced with similar situations, we have to find the strength in these difficult times for unpopular but brave measures that lead to concrete results," said Vučić.
Until Wednesday's incident, a single police officer would be responsible for checking up on 2 or 3 schools. In the next couple of months, hundreds of new police officers will be hired and thousands more will be transferred from other positions to monitor schools.
"Besides the guards, there will now be at least one police officer at every school almost all the time," Vučić explained.
The bloodshed sent shockwaves through a Balkan nation scarred by wars but unused to mass murders.
Though Serbia is awash with weapons left over from the wars of the 1990s, mass shootings are extremely rare. Wednesday's school shooting was the first in the country's modern history. The last mass shooting before this week was in 2013 when a war veteran killed 13 people in a central Serbian village.
The new measures include accelerated changes to the law on weapons and ammunition, according to which the preconditions for possessing short firearms will be toughened. Guns will be confiscated from those who do not comply with these new strict limits.
“Everyone who has weapons, that’s about 400,000 people in the country not including hunting weapons, will undergo an audit and we hope to bring down the number of weapons to 30,000 or 40,000 respective firearms,” the president continued.
“We will carry out an almost complete disarmament of Serbia,” said Vučić.
Weapon license holders are subject to these measures. The penalties for illegally carrying firearms, however, will be doubled.
Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gašić called Thursday's drive-by shootings “a terrorist act,” state media reported.
Earlier Thursday, Serbian students, many wearing black and carrying flowers, filled streets around the school in central Belgrade as they paid silent homage to slain peers. Thousands laid flowers, lit candles and left toys to commemorate the nine victims.
The tragedy also sparked a debate about the general state of the nation following decades of crises and conflicts whose aftermath has created a state of permanent insecurity and instability, along with deep political divisions.
Authorities on Thursday moved to boost gun control, as police urged citizens to lock up their guns and keep them away from children.
The government ordered a two-year moratorium on short-barrel guns, tougher control of people with guns and shooting ranges and tougher sentences for people who enable minors to get hold of guns.
A registered gun owner in Serbia must be over 18, healthy and have no criminal record. Weapons must be kept locked and separately from ammunition.
The teen had planned the attack for a month, drawing sketches of classrooms and making lists of children he planned to kill, police said on Wednesday.
They said the boy, who had visited shooting ranges with his father and apparently had the code to his father’s safe, took two guns from the safe where they were stored together with bullets to carry out the attack.
The shooting on Wednesday morning in Vladislav Ribnikar primary school also left seven people hospitalised — six children and a teacher. One girl who was shot in the head remains in life-threatening condition, and a boy is in serious condition with spinal injuries, doctors said on Thursday morning.
The children killed were seven girls and one boy. One of the girls was a French citizen, France’s foreign ministry said.
Authorities set up a helpline to help people cope with the tragedy, and hundreds donated blood for the wounded victims. A three-day mourning period started Friday morning.
Serbian teachers’ unions announced protests and strikes to warn about a crisis in the school system and demand changes. Authorities shrugged off responsibility, with some officials blaming Western influence.
Police have not given any motive for the boy's actions. Upon entering his school, he first killed the guard and three students in the hallway. He then went to the history classroom where he shot a teacher before turning his gun on the students.
He then unloaded the gun in the schoolyard and called the police himself, although they had already received an alert from a school official. When he called, he told duty officers he was a “psychopath who needs to calm down,” police said.
Authorities said the shooter is below the legal age to be charged and tried for his actions. He has been placed in a mental institution, while his father and mother have been detained on suspicion of endangering public security and could face charges for not preventing the shooter from getting access to the guns.