Macedonian police killed in clashes with 'terrorists'

14 of those killed were wearing uniforms with the insignia of the disbanded ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, or UCK.

Sunday 10 May 2015 17:42
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Police officers patrol in the streets of Kumanovo after armed incidents near the Kosovo border left four policemen injured
Police officers patrol in the streets of Kumanovo after armed incidents near the Kosovo border left four policemen injured

The death toll now stands at 22, after fighting between police forces and members of a terrorist group continued for a second day in the Northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo.

According to local authorities, eight police officers and 14 members of an armed group have been killed in the clashes, while Interior Ministry spokesman, Ivo Kotevski, has confirmed that 37 police officers have also been wounded.

Police have stated that 14 of the 22 individuals killed were wearing uniforms with the insignia of the disbanded ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, or UCK.

Mr Kotevski told reporters that the police operation is now over and that: “one of the most

Police officers patrol in the streets of Kumanovo after armed incidents

dangerous terrorists groups in the Balkan has been neutralized.”

Early this morning, ambulances in Kumanovo were seen carrying wounded policemen and sporadic gunfire was heard.

The Macedonian government has declared two days of mourning for those killed in the clashes.

Macedonia's Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, has said that the armed group involved in this weekend’s battles had previously aimed to attack state buildings and public spaces.

The 40-strong armed group was made up of well-trained fighters that participated in operations in the region and the Middle East, Mr Gruevski told reporters.

Gruevski said the group aimed to attack state institutions, sport events and shopping centres.

"One of the aims of the group, at least, was to destabilise Macedonia," Gruevski added.

He said that the armed group was not supported by members of Macedonia's ethnic Albania minority.

Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska told reporters that over 20 members of the armed group had surrendered and are being question by police, but that others refused to give up arms and were holed up in houses in Diva Naselba, a neighborhood in western Kumanovo.

The clashes come as Macedonia grapples with its deepest political crisis since its independence from former Yugoslavia in 1991.

The government and the opposition have accused each other of planning to destabilise the country to take or preserve power, and some analysts fear leaders on both sides are ready to provoke ethnic clashes as leverage.

About two weeks ago, authorities said a group of about 40 people wearing uniforms of the disbanded ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, or UCK, attacked a police watchtower in Gosince on Macedonia's northern border with Kosovo and briefly captured four Macedonian police officers.

The UCK, an ethnic Albanian rebel group, fought Serb government forces for Kosovo independence in 1998-1999.

AP/Reuters

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