Bomber's motives 'unclear' Croatian hunted over bomb

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The Independent Online

Europe Editor

Ten days after President Kiro Gligorov of Macedonia was almost killed by a car bomb in Skopje, government officials and police investigators are uncertain if the assassination attempt was related to Balkan politics or organised crime. No group or individual has claimed responsibility, no arrests have been made, and all the Macedonian authorities are saying is that the attack bore the marks of a professional killer or hit squad from abroad.

"The way the assassination attempt was carried out points to an international terrorist organisation, but for the moment we are not announcing anything," the deputy interior minister, Dime Gjurev, said on Tuesday.

However, the authorities have released a description of the man who bought the Citroen that exploded in Skopje on 3 October, causing serious eye and head injuries to Mr Gligorov, 78, and killing his driver as they passed by in the president's car. He is said to be blond, 5ft 7ins tall, and aged about 30.

This man bought the Citroen in Skopje on 24 September for 650 German marks (pounds 290), according to the newspaper Nova Makedonija. It said he spoke a Serbo-Croat dialect common to a region of northern Croatia.

Immediately after the attack, some Balkan experts pointed the finger of guilt at Macedonian nationalists opposed to Mr Gligorov's recent concessions to Greece on the flag and constitution of his young state. Mr Gligorov had further annoyed the nationalist opposition by seeking better relations with Serbia.

The main group opposed to Mr Gligorov's policies has been the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (VMRO), a party with a rich tradition of political violence earlier in this century. However, VMRO's leadership has vigorously denied involvement.

Some argue the would-be killers are more likely to be connected with gangs involved in the burgeoning drug trade and money-laundering in Macedonia.