Skopje, 11 May 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Naser Pajaziti
In the multi-ethnic city of Kumanovo, in the north of the country, a two day armed clash between Macedonian security forces and an armed group came to an end.
The clashes took place in an area inhabited by Albanians, while the epilogue of the two days was 22 people killed, out of which 8 police officers and 14 members of the armed group. Meanwhile there were also 37 police officers who remained wounded.
Ministry of Interior informed that they have arrested 30 people, which are suspected of being part of the group. The ministry calls them terrorists and that they will be held accountable for serious offenses such as terrorism and for ruining constitutional order of the country.
For several hours, residents of Kumanovo lived terrible moments. Within a few hours of fighting, thousands of residents emptied the city, seeking refuge in other cities, but also in Kosovo and Serbia. For two days in a row, the city seemed to be divided in two parts. On one part there were fights, while in the other, the population seemed to be living a half normal life, with open shops and bars and many people were seen in the cafes of the city.
The city was not divided into ethnic groups, as both Albanians and Macedonians have cohabited in this country and they have never had problems.
Gruevski: It was the most terrible group in the Balkan
PM Nikola Gruevski declared that “one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the Balkan has been eliminated”.
“14 bodies have been found. They are believed to have been members of the terrorist group and work is being done to identify them. I have also been informed that the majority of the members of this group has participated in the terrorist attack against border police post in Gosinca. It’s certain that the main objective of this group was to cause unrest in Macedonia through attacks against state institutions and civil facilities”, declared PM Nikola Gruevski, adding that the operation didn’t target the Albanian population.
He added that this operation was the most difficult on ever to take place in the country.
Police spokesman, Ivo Kotevski, declared that the armed group was led by several Kosovo nationals, who surrendered.
“Based on our information, the leaders of this group are Muhamed Krasniqi, the so called commander Malisheva, Mirsad Ndrecaj-NATO commander, Sami Ukshini-commander Sokoli, Beki Rizaj, Dem Shehu-Juniku, etc. Three of the heads of the group surrendered to police along with 30 other members”, Kotevski said.
But, on the other hand, there’s still no information on civilian victims. PM Nikola Gruevski and spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Ivo Kotevski, declared that there is no information about victims among civilians and according to them, this will be verified in the days to come.
The fighting area in chaos
The quarter where the fights took place was an area inhabited by 98% of Albanians, known as “the quarter of brave men” and the fighting mainly took place in its two streets, where the armed group was positioned.
The clash which lasted for more than 40 hours, saw damages in several houses, while a part of the quarter is paralyzed without electricity, water and other basic needs.
The residents have been allowed back in their homes and police has withdrawn.
PM Gruevski said that the government will cover all expenses for the repair of many houses which have been burned during the police operation in this quarter of Kumanovo, inhabited by Albanians.
OSCE teams have visited the area to secure proofs after the armed clashes. OSCE is expected to issue a report on the situation after the fighting and in a statement which it has issued, it called for calm and for normality to be restored, while calling for political factors to start dialogue to overcome the political crisis in the country.
Local authorities in Kumanovo have also offered refuge for the residents who fled as a result of the clashes. Zoran Damjanovski, mayor of Kumanovo appealed for calm, while demanding from state authorities to help the endangered areas. “As a commune, we have formed an emergency staff and we are coming to the aid of the residents who have fled the area. We have secured accommodation and food and we hope for the situation to go back to normality”, said Damjanovski, who said that what happened in this city must undergo an investigation.
Suspicions for possible scenarios
Developments in Kumanovo have also raised suspicion among a part of opinion makers, due to the timing which coincides with the political crisis and the wiretapping scandal.
“I fear that yesterday events are not even a culmination, but a mere episode of a long saga which has started earlier. I agree that the events aim at diverting attention from the publication of information about abuses carried out by Gruevski’s and Ahmeti’s government and the protests of the citizens against the regime”, declared for IBNA, the political analyst and former ambassador of FYROM to OSCE in Vienna, Arsim Zekolli.
Seladin H, from the quarter of Kumanovo told IBNA that the latest developments come as a result of the bad governance.
“We couldn’t understand what was going on when we heard the gun shots. It was said that the fighting was taking place between police and an armed group and we don’t know why this happened in our quarter. It’s unacceptable that we become part of these scenarios, where the population. We appeal for this to be investigated and for the houses that were damaged to be repaired”, said one of the residents in Kumanovo. /ibna/