Driver of Roma Killer Van Arrested by Bulgarian Police
The driver of the van, which run over and killed 19-year-old Angel Petrov from the village of Katunitsa, near the second largest Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, has been arrested by the police.
The information was announced Sunday morning by Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry, Chief Commissar, Kalin Georgiev, who is on the spot and spent the night in Katunitsa.
The man had briefly left the country and was detained immediately after his return. He was issued a country-wide search warrant Friday night when a van, transporting Roma from the Stolipinovo district in Plovdiv, ran over the 19-year-old ethnic Bulgarian boy in Katunitsa around 8 pm. The driver, 55, with the initials C.Y., has a long rap sheet.
Tensions in the area began after the grandson of the notorious Roma boss and Katunitsa resident, Kiril Rashkov aka Tsar Kiro, went to the Roma district of Stolipinovo to invite 10-15 people to mark the anniversary of his father and Rashkov son's death. Upon the arrival of three vehicles with Stolipinovo Roma in Katunitsa, a conflict erupted between Tsar Kiro's grandson and a local ethnic Bulgarian, which, allegedly, prompted the Roma driver to run over the 19-year-old boy while the latter was walking his dog. Angel had been dragged by the van for several meters and later died in the hospital.
Minutes after the incident, angry people from the village began to gather. They were able to break the police chain and attack and destroy some of Rashkov's property. One of the houses was set on fire, but was extinguished by firefighters who arrived on the scene.
Five people – two young men from the village and three policemen were injured after another Roma vehicle drove through the crowd – one of the men, 30, has head trauma; the other, 18, has a broken hip. Both are listed in the Plovdiv hospital. Two policemen have sustained broken arm bones while the third has cuts and rub sores.
At the time, police arrested four Roma, who were passengers in the van that killed Angel, but the driver managed to avoid detention.
The tensions escalated further Saturday morning after a meeting with Plovdiv Police Chief, Todor Chonov, when local ethnic Bulgarians demanded the deportation of Rashkov's family from the village, claiming the authorities have been protecting the criminal clan for years. After the meeting the crowd went to attack the family properties once again – breaking glass and overturning Rashkov's vehicles.
During the turmoil, one of the participants in the attack, 16-year-old Pavel, passed out and was taken to the Plovdiv hospital, where he later died. The boy had been a close friend of Angel Petrov, and underwent a heart transplant several years ago.
Another 127 people were arrested Saturday evening, after football hooligans from Plovdiv flocked to the village, storming and setting on fire Tsar Kiro's properties, the press center of the Interior Ministry informs Sunday.
The football hooligans staged the assault late Saturday night, amidst escalating ethnic tensions.
Some 2 000 soccer hooligans from the fan clubs of Lokomotiv Plovdiv FC, Botev Plovdiv FC, joined later by fans from Sofia's CSKA and Levski football clubs and football fans from the southern city of Stara Zagora, took part in attack on three homes owned by the clan of the Roma boss.
The hooligans' outburst started at about 8 pm Saturday night, and was over by 10 pm, as one of Tsar Kiro's homes was essentially destroyed. There were no reported injuries.
The hundreds of police and gendarmerie officers, brought to Katunitsa, adopted a hands-off policy and abstained from tackling the arsonists, but it was reported by the TV channel bTV Sunday that the main mansion of the Roma family has remained intact.
According to Kalin Georgiev, the policy aimed at avoiding a further escalation of tensions, and potential casualties if the police clashed with the hooligans.
The major job of the gendarmerie instead has been to secure the spots for the firefighters who arrived shortly to tackle the numerous blazes set by the hooligans.
Most of the attackers were wearing masks and wigs. 230 police and gendarmerie officers from Plovdiv, Smolyan, Stara Zagora, and Pazardzhik occupied the entire village of Katunitsa for the night.
Tensions could escalate further on Sunday when the funeral of the murdered 19-year-old Bulgarian boy will take place.
The members of the Rashkov clan have been evacuated by 20 policemen, who escorted them away from the village, immediately after the incident with the van. Interior Secretary Georgiev has refused to reveal their location for safety reasons. Tsar Kiro, however, declared in a phone interview for bTV Sunday morning that he remains in his mansion in Katunitsa, unwavering he would never evacuate.
The Plovdiv Regional Prosecutor, Ivan Daskalov, is also on the spot, to decide on the indictment of those arrested – charges will include vandalism, hooliganism, arson, demolition of property. Strong police presence is to remain in Katunitsa.
Kalin Georgiev, Daskalov and the Head of the Plovdiv Regional Directorate of the Interior Ministry, Commissar, Todor Chonov, are scheduled to hold a joint press conference at 11 am Sunday in the Directorate's building in Plovdiv.
"I am calling on all parties and politicians to behave seriously and to refrain from provoking political comments and actions, for that would lead to additional tensions," said the Bulgarian PM.
"This is a criminal case and all state officials dealing with it are regarding it as being just that," added Borisov.
Interethnic tensions have been simmering in Katunitsa for years, with locals complaining of Tsar Kiro and members of his family exercising a self-styled rule over the community, with authorities doing little or nothing to curb it.
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