Ivo Pukanic, the owner of a leading Croatian political weekly, and his newspaper's marketing director, Niko Franjic, were killed by a car bomb in Zagreb on Thursday, the latest in a series of violent incidents in the country.
(Euronews, EurActiv, Javno.hr - 24/10/08; AP, Reuters, AFP, DPA, BBC, B92, Committee to Protect Journalists, Javno.hr - 23/10/08)
An emergency vehicle arrives as policemen secure the area Thursday (October 24th) after a car bomb exploded in Zagreb. [AFP]
Croatia will rise up against terrorism and organised crime, the country's leaders vowed on Thursday (October 23rd) following the murder of a prominent journalist. It was the latest in a string of violent incidents that have shocked the nation.
An explosion under his own sedan killed Ivo Pukanic, 47, the owner of Croatia's leading political weekly, Nacional, outside his newspaper's offices in downtown Zagreb. The blast at around 6:30pm also killed the weekly's marketing director, Niko Franjic. Two passersby reportedly suffered injuries.
"Croatia will be even more determined and tough in dealing with organised crime and terror," Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said on Thursday evening. "We will not allow Croatia to become another Beirut."
Thursday's attack came less than three weeks after a gunman killed Ivana Hodak, the 26-year-old daughter of a prominent lawyer, in broad daylight near a Zagreb police station.
Condemning Pukanic's assassination, President Stipe Mesic called an emergency session of the National Security Council for Friday, saying "Terrorism has become a fact on the streets of our capital."
"Now it is either we or they -- the law-based state, or criminals, terrorists and mafia," Mesic said in a statement, urging the authorities to act quickly and energetically.
Showing the ability to fight organised crime and corruption is one of the key requirements countries must meet to join the EU. Croatia hopes to enter the Union as its 28th member in 2011.
Some fear the escalation of violence could affect its EU bid.
Davor Butkovic, an editor of the popular Jutarnji List daily, told Reuters that the double murder was a "big blow to Croatia's political system".
Voicing concern over this escalation of violence, a New York-based media watchdog meanwhile urged Zagreb to make sure that those behind Thursday's incident face justice.
"The Croatian authorities must mount a thorough investigation and bring those responsible for these murders to justice swiftly," the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.
Sanader said the country's top experts will work on Pukanic's murder and other unsolved cases.
"This is no longer merely a fight against organised crime," said the prime minister. "This is something all of us in Croatia will rise up against."
Pukanic was both eminent and controversial. His newspaper fought corruption and human rights abuses, winning him several prizes. But he also was criticised for his close ties with some politicians and an alleged organised crime boss.
Pukanic received police protection after escaping an attempt on his life in April. However, two months ago, the protection ended upon his request, Croatian Interior Minister Tomislav Karamarko said on Thursday.