(CBS) Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic – a key leader of the revolt that toppled former President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 – was assassinated Wednesday.
Djindjic was shot while entering a government building in Belgrade. Two people were arrested and one was injured in the shooting, witnesses said.
Sources from Djindjic’s Cabinet told the AP that Djindjic sustained two shots in his stomach and back. He was rushed to Belgrade’s emergency hospital, where he underwent surgery. Sources say he died there.
The hospital was blocked by a large number of police officers. The building where the shooting occurred was sealed off by heavy state security, and three ambulances were parked in front. Police stopped traffic in downtown Belgrade, searching through cars and checking passengers.
Djindjic appeared to have been targeted last month, when a truck suddenly cut into the lane in which his motorcade was traveling to Belgrade’s airport. The motorcade narrowly avoided a collision, and Djindjic later dismissed the Feb. 21 alleged assassination attempt as a “futile effort” that could not stop democratic reforms.
“If someone thinks the law and the reforms can be stopped by eliminating me, then that is a huge delusion,” Djindjic was quoted as saying by the Politika newspaper at the time.
The 50-year-old Djindjic joined with Vojislav Kostunica in the coalition that defeated former president Milosevic in 2000.
Kostunica went on to become Yugoslavia’s president, before stepped down earlier this month after the formation of a new state, Serbia and Montenegro.
Djindjic and Kostunica represented different factions of the reform movement, and clashed almost since taking power.
Djindjic, a pro-Western leader, sees Serbia’s fate as linked to the West and has favored greater cooperation with the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where Milosevic now is standing trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
He was pivotal in arresting and handing Milosevic to the war crimes tribunal in June 2001. For this, he was blasted by Serbian nationalists, including Kostunica.
Djindjic’s feud with Kostunica virtually paralyzed the country’s much-needed economic and social reforms. He was often criticized by his opponents for seeking too much power and for “mercilessly” combating his political rivals.
A German-educated technocrat known to supporters as “The Manager” for his organizational skills and as “Little Slobo” to his detractors for his authoritarian tendencies, Djindjic nonetheless managed to gain some political capital from his willingness to surrender Milosevic despite a constitutional ban on extraditing Serbian citizens.
Though derided for his fondness for big cars and flashy suits, Djindjic’s trade of Milosevic for $1.2 billion in international economic aid appeared to have won respect from people desperate to improve a living standard that ranks among the lowest in Europe.