Heavily armed police entered the outskirts of a north Macedonian town on Saturday in what a spokesman described as an operation against an “armed group”, heightening fears of instability in the ex-Yugoslav republic after months of political crisis.
“The erection of recent conflict in Macedonia is a clear invention of VMRO DPMNE -vs- BDI! In the country, Albanians and Macedonians have nothing against each-other, this is an invention” says a political activist, adding that “Gruevski with his network of Mafia, which involved Ali Ahmeti, yet another warlord mafia-man, are just trying to save their butt by creating an outside enemy” said the activist.
Helicopters flew overhead in a region that saw fighting between government forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas in 2001 before Western diplomacy averted an all-out civil war. A hospital source, which declined to be named, told Reuters that at least three officers had been seriously wounded.
“It is supposed that (Albanian) ‘terrorists’ attacked the police, so the game will continue that police cannot catch them and they have to launch a anti-guerrilla warfare in the city of Kumanovo, so they can erect fear and anger among the citizens and force them to organise the self-defence, this is Gruevski’s, Mijalkov’s and Ali Ahmeti’s old dirty game” told THE Frontliner another activist from the capital city of Macedonia.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said only that police had launched an operation “on previously received information about an armed group”, without elaborating.
The events are likely to deepen concern in the West over stability in Macedonia, where the government is on the ropes over opposition allegations of illegal wire-tapping and widespread abuse of office. The opposition has begun small but daily protests demanding the resignation of conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, and is threatening to rally thousands on May 17.
Observers fear political leaders on either side may try to stir ethnic tensions as leverage.
An estimated 30 percent of Macedonia’s 2 million people are ethnic Albanians. Guerrillas took up arms in 2001, clashing with security forces before the West brokered a peace deal offering the Albanian minority greater rights and representation and the insurgents entered politics.
But implementation has been slow and tensions sometimes flare. Many in Macedonia, regardless of ethnicity, are frustrated at the glacial pace of development and integration with the West, with the country’s bid to join the European Union and NATO blocked by a long-running dispute with Greece over the country’s name.