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Ethnic Violence Simmers in Macedonia

March 13, 2012

By Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 11.03.2012

 

A spate of ethnically motivated attacks has continued in Macedonia over the weekend, provoking condemnation and worries about the country’s future ethnic harmony.

Police minister Gordana Jankulovska [right] inspects confiscated weapons | photo by: Mvr

More Albanian-Macedonian ethnic incidents have occurred in Skopje and other towns over the weekend, provoking fears about the country’s stability.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, just returned from India, on Saturday denounced the violence as “cowardly, dishonest and illegal”.

Blaming the tot-for-tat attacks on young people, he urged teachers and parents to take preventive action.

Police said they had seized 28 suspects “from different ethnicities” and had filed criminal charges against most of them.

“Given the severity of the acts the prosecution will demand that they stay in custody,” police Minister Gordana Jankulovska said.

Police said they had arrested two people in relation to an incident on Friday when several people beat up two youths in the mainly Albanian town of Tetovo and lightly wounded a police officer with a knife after he intervened.

That same night in Skopje a minor was stabbed with a knife. The police said they had arrested five suspects, all young people from nearby villages.

On Saturday, a group of about ten people attacked two minors in the mainly Albanian Skopje municipality of Cair. In a separate incident in the mainly Macedonian suburb of Gjorce Petrov, a man in his sixties was beaten with baseball bats.

Firearms were also confiscated | Photo by: Mvr

The police say they prevented several other incidents from happening, arresting people and confiscating an arsenal of weapons and guns that they have shown to the public.

All political parties, the EU and OSCE offices in Skopje and foreign ambassadors have condemned the violence, appealing for calm.

Ethnic relations have been troubled since a village carnival was held in January in western Macedonia at which participants wore masks mocking the Muslim faith.

On February 28 an off-duty Macedonian policeman shot dead two young ethnic Albanians in the western town of Gostivar. Protesting Albanians described the killings as ethnically motivated and accused the police of downplaying their significance.

In 2001 Macedonia suffered a short-lived armed conflict between the security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of the Ohrid Accord, which guaranteed greater rights to Albanians. Albanians make up about a quarter of country’s population of about 2.1 million.

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