Prepared by: Ridona Berisha
On September 24th, 2023, around 02:34 in the morning, a group of approximately 30 uniformed individuals attacked members of the Kosovo Police on Sunday in the village of Banjskë in northern Kosovo. As a result, Police Officer Afrim Bunjaku lost his life, and another officer was injured. This attack was categorized as a terrorist act by Kosovo authorities.
In relation to the incident, the Kosovo Police issued a media statement, in which they explained that while performing their police duties, at around 02:34, the rapid response police unit observed that at the entrance to the village of Banjskë, two heavy vehicles (without license plates) had blocked the road leading to the village.
Upon receiving the information, the units of the Police Station in Zveçan responded to the case and dispatched three units towards the location. As soon as they arrived in the vicinity of the reported blockade, they were attacked.
“The police units encountered resistance where they were fired upon from various positions with a firearms arsenal, including hand grenades and mortars. As a result of the gunfire, two police officers were hit by firearms,” the Kosovo Police statement said.
The group that attacked the Kosovo Police was reported to have taken refuge inside the Bajnska Monastery. This has also been confirmed by Kosovo’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Xhelal Sveçla, who stated, “A number of them have barricaded themselves inside the Bajnska Monastery, according to official statements from the Diocese of Raška-Prizren. These terrorists are surrounded by police units, and it is high time for them to surrender.”
The Kosovo Police, through another statement, has informed that the situation in the north continues to be tense, and three attackers have been killed. Two attackers have been arrested along with four suspected individuals who were found in illegal possession of radio devices and are suspected of being associated with the terrorist group.
Following the news of the killing of these individuals, various news portals, attempting to capitalize on this event, have published photos of the deceased, claiming that they were part of the group that attacked the Kosovo Police in northern Kosovo.
Initially, through a caption that read, “This is another terrorist killed; he was about to attack the Police with a mortar!”, these news outlets in the Albanian language spread misinformation by attaching a photograph taken many years earlier and in different conflict zones.
According to Sbunker’s research on Google, the data indicates that this photograph was published on April 6, 2016, in which it shows an Azerbaijani soldier killed on the frontlines in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The publication of photographs with the claim that these are the Serbian attackers has continued on media outlets and profiles on social networks. Facebook pages such as “Shprehu 02” and “Gazeta Aktuale” have published another photograph with the caption: “Exclusive Photo: Another Serbian terrorist killed in the north, their two bodies found.”
However, the TinEye program indicates that the photo was originally published on March 23, 2022, and it depicts a Russian soldier killed in Ukraine.
During times of tension, it is crucial for the media to exercise caution in how they convey information. Manipulation and misinformation are risks that can lead to confusion within the public opinion.
*This article is published as part of the Western Balkans Regional Initiative against disinformation.Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: exposing malign influences through watchdog journalism.