Home Art A wave of bomb threats spreads panic in the Balkans

A wave of bomb threats spreads panic in the Balkans

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Katarina Panic

After receiving bomb threats via email, more than four hundred schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina were evacuated yesterday morning. By midday, most of them were checked by police bomb squads, reopened and continued business as if nothing had happened – but the fear persisted.

Panic spread through schools as quickly as the cyberattack. After the incident, school staff did not inform or educate schoolchildren about the bomb threat because no one was prepared for such a situation. Therefore, children created their own versions of the story, without explanations from adults, teachers or experts. Parents also don’t know how to approach the problem. So they chose to simplify the subject as much as possible, mainly explaining that it was just a false alarm. However, the Children’s Ombudsman warned that knowing how to talk to children is essential in times of crisis.

“In the absence of adequate information, children risk creating a false version of events, which can be disastrous. They talk about the events among themselves and thus fill the information gap,” Gordana Rajić, Children’s Ombudsman of Republika Srpska, told local media.

Prosecutors described this act as false reporting of a criminal offense, while part of the public thought it was an act of terrorism. This morning, one of the country’s largest hospitals was evacuated following a similar bomb threat.

“Yesterday we found it difficult to see students running out of schools. And then today we saw the newborns with their mothers crying in front (of the clinical center},” a Banjaluka citizen told local media.

This email also turned out to be a false alarm and the patients were back at the clinic by noon. Yet today, people are worried about what the next threat will be.

The wave of false bomb threats was also which has been affecting neighboring Serbia for months, and the state must investigate every case, which is time- and personnel-consuming, costly and exhausting. Threats in Serbia began targeting planes and airports three months ago, shortly after Russia attacked Ukraine. They are believed to have been triggered by the decision of Serbian authorities not to cancel regular flights between Belgrade and Moscow. Since then, bomb threats have spread, first throughout Serbia and then throughout the rest of the Balkan region. The Serbian Interior Ministry found that the emails came from at least seven countries. At this point, it seems like a never-ending panic story.

photo by Michael Schiffer

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