Nine people were injured when Croatian police opened fire on a van carrying 29 mainly Afghan and Iraqi migrants that tried to crash through a roadblock after entering the EU from Bosnia, sources reported police as saying.
According to police, two children were in a serious but stable condition and the others more lightly injured after the crash, which took place overnight near the south-eastern town of Zadar.
Police had set up the roadblock to stop the van after it crossed into the country illegally. Moreover, sources reported that the driver, who is believed to be Bosnian, ran away quickly and fled the scene and a search was underway for him.
"The driver did not stop after several warnings. He finally passed through a roadblock and drove towards the police," Zadar police chief Ranko Drazina said.
The police chief went on to say "The police reaction was justified. They were forced to open fire because their lives were in danger."
The main Balkan route that saw more than a million migrants enter the European Union in 2015 was shut in 2016 by an agreement between the EU and Turkey. However, thousands have entered this year through a new route opened by smugglers, running from Greece via Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia to Croatia.
Bosnian and Croatian police have arrested dozens of smugglers in several operations in recent months. Officials in Bosnia said this week about 5,000 migrants had entered the country this year. Border police have stepped up controls along the 1,000 kilometer-long border.
The migration crisis has been on the rise in Europe during the past few years, with an increase especially in illegal migration through the Balkan countries. In comparison to 2017, the number of migrants entering Croatia illegally has increased by two-thirds.