Slovakia off-duty policeman kills three


An off-duty policeman has killed three people and wounded two more in south-west Slovakia.

The 51-year-old man drove up to a house occupied by a Roma (Gypsy) family in the small town of Hurbanovo and opened fire, local media report.

He was understood to have known the victims, who were in the garden.

The policeman was arrested after a two-hour stand-off during which he threatened to shoot himself. His motive remains unclear.

There was no immediate explanation for the attack, and police have so far refused to confirm a racial motive.

According to Slovak media reports, the man drove up to the house at 11:00 (12:00 GMT), and opened fire on the inhabitants who were in the yard.

Three were shot dead on the spot, and another couple are being treated in hospital for gunshot wounds, reports say.

Local people said that a large Roma family lived in the house and that the policemen knew the victims.

Hurbanovo is part of an ethnically mixed Slovak-Hungarian-Roma region, on the plain of the River Danube.

According to the latest census results, around 3% of the 8,000 people who live in Hurbanovo are Roma. But a 2008 estimate by local authorities suggests the real figure is four times higher - concentrated in a predominantly Roma district known as Sarad, says the BBC's central Europe correspondent, Nick Thorpe.

Up to 10% of Slovakia's 5.4 million population are Roma.

Ethnic tensions usually focus on allegations of petty theft by Roma, our correspondent says, while the Roma accuse the majority population of segregation, especially in education.

In the general election in April, a Roma candidate Peter Pollack won a seat in parliament for the first time.

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