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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Macedonia Blames Kosovans for Kumanovo Clashes Killing 8 Officers

From BBC Europe
Police officers run across a street in Kumanovo, Macedonia, 9 May 2015
Macedonia says five Kosovans led the armed group which was involved in clashes with security forces in the northern town of Kumanovo.

Eight officers were killed and 37 injured, as well as 14 gunmen, Interior ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski said.

Those named were members of the now dismantled Kosovo Liberation Army.

Mr Kotevski said the threat in Kumanovo, near the Serbian-Kosovan border, had been "eliminated" and a large amount of weapons seized.

Last month, about 40 ethic Albanians from Kosovo briefly took over a Macedonian police station in the village of Gosince near the border, demanding the creation of an Albanian state in Macedonia.

Map showing Kumanovo in Macedonia
In 2001, rebels demanding greater rights for the ethnic Albanian minority launched an uprising against the government, and tensions have continued despite a peace deal.

About a quarter of Macedonia's two million population are ethnic Albanians.

Men in uniforms

Sami Ukshini, Beg Rizaj, Dem Shehu, Muhamet Krasniqi and Mirsad Ndrecaj were the leaders of the armed group that clashed with police in a suburb of Kumanovo, some 40km (25 miles) north of the capital, Skopje on Saturday, the interior ministry spokesman said.

Only one of the 14 uniformed bodies had been identified - that of another Kosovo national, named Xhafer Zymberi, said the spokesman.

"More than 30 terrorists, mainly Macedonian nationals and one from Albania, surrendered yesterday [Saturday] to the police forces," he added.

Ethnic Albanians in the village of Studenicani pray during the funeral of
Isamedin Osmani, one of the police officers killed in the Kumanovo operation
An elderly woman is evacuated in an armoured vehicle near a police
checkpoint in Kumanovo, Macedonia May 10, 2015
People on bicycles pass in front of the Government building where the national
flags are lowered at half mast, in Skopje, Macedonia May 10, 2015
They would face Macedonian justice, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said. The group had tried to destabilise the country, he said, after paying tribute to the security forces.

His government is already under pressure over claims of illegal wire-tapping and police brutality.

The opposition and the government have accused each other of deliberately destabilising the country.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was following the situation with "great concern" and urged all sides to "exercise restraint and avoid any further escalation, in the interest of the country and the whole region".

Earlier, the European Commission issued a similar call.

Macedonia, which is a candidate for European Union membership, is observing two days of mourning.