Gunmen Attack Home of Kosovo's Prime Minister

Armed assailants attacked the home of Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, Kosovo police said Saturday. Thaci was away at the time; his wife and son were in the house but were unhurt, police said.

The government condemned the assault as a "direct attack upon the prime minister and his family."

Police said Thaci's security guards spotted one person trying to break into the two-story house from the balcony of the top floor. They exchanged fire with an unknown number of assailants, who did not manage to get into the house. The attackers escaped but at least one was believed to be injured as traces of blood were found.

Deputy Prime Minister, Hajredin Kuqi said Thaci was away on a private visit at the time of the attack late Friday. He said authorities have increased security measures for government officials.

"This is a direct attack upon the prime minister and his family," Kuqi told reporters in the capital Pristina. "The fact that someone has tried to hurt the prime minister and his family for whatever reason is not only criminal, it goes beyond any political hatred or impatience."

Police have launched a search operation and have tightened security at Kosovo's border crossings to prevent the suspects from fleeing the country, a police official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ongoing operation.

The attackers are believed to have dragged the injured assailant to a car and sped off, according to the official.

Thaci's residence is in a suburb of Kosovo's capital Pristina that contains most of the embassies and diplomatic residences.

Relations between ethnic Albanian political parties in Kosovo have been marked by tensions and bitter rivalry. Thaci heads an uneasy coalition government forged with the party of late pacifist President Ibrahim Rugova, his one-time main rival.

He is also at odds with former rebel commander Ramush Haradinaj who was recently acquitted by the U.N. tribunal of war crimes charges and has returned to Kosovo to lead his party, now in opposition.

Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo condemned the attack and urged authorities to find the perpetrators.

"Such criminal acts damage the positive image of the state of Kosovo," the party said in a statement sent to AP.

Kuqi refused to be drawn into commenting on who was behind the attack and called upon authorities to conduct a swift investigation.

"We don't want to believe that this is due to political hatred," Kuqi said. "We trust the authorities and they will have their say."

Thaci, the former political head of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian rebels, the Kosovo Liberation Army, is regarded as the key figure in pushing for Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence on Feb. 17 following close coordination with Western capitals. The declaration is fiercely opposed by Serbia.