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Grieving Macedonia Buries Five Murder Victims

April 14, 2012

Saturday is declared a day of mourning in Skopje’s Butel municipality, following the grisly murder of five men whose discovery has distressed the nation and raised ethnic tensions.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 14.04.2012


Zelezarsko Ezero, where the bodies were found | Photo by: Beta/Ap/Boris Grdanoski

Flags flew at half-mast on the town hall as relatives of the five victims prepared for the burials to take place on Saturday.

The bodies of Filip Slavkovski, Aleksandar Nakjevski, Cvetanco Acevski and Kire Trickovski, all aged between 18 and 20, were discovered on Thursday night near Zelezarsko Ezero on the northern outskirts of the capital and a popular fishing destination.  All had gunshot wounds.

Eyewitnesses said they were found by a local fisherman and the victims were believed to be fishermen too. The bodies had been lined up and appeared to have been executed with firearms. Two cars were found in the vicinity with open doors.

The body of 45-year-old Borce Stevkovski was a short distance away from the rest. His brother said that Stevkovski may have been killed because he had accidentally witnesed the murders of the others.

Interior minister Gordana Jankulovska told reporters on Saturday  that “the autopsy and the analysis of the bullet casings found at the scene show that three types of weapons were used which suggests there were more than one perpetrators”. The autopsy showed the victims were shot at close range.

Jankulovska said the police have set up a separate phone line, 199, and called anyone with information about the case to step forward. She said the police have expanded the list of people they are interviewing in order to establish what was going on in the area at the time of the murders. Macedonian police are also in contact with police from neighbouring countries.

“We are taking all possible measures to resolve this and my message to the perpetrators is that they will not evade justice,” Jankulovska said.

The minister said there is no evidence “to suggest the ethnic background or the identity of the killers, nor the motives for the killing. Therefore I appeal to all to restrain from any speculations that could fuel interethnic tensions,” she said.

She added that the situation in Skopje is calm, that all police forces are deployed and appealed for orderly conduct during Easter gatherings so that the police forces can focus on resolving the murder.

The news of the killings have fuelled tensions in the country between Macedonians and Albanians, prompting the police to deploy riot police to the area.

Hundreds of angry Macedonians gathered on Friday near the place where the bodies were found, blocking a road and demanding that the killers be brought to justice.

Dozens of them tried to enter an area populated by ethnic Albanians, seeking revenge for the murdered men, although there is nothing to suggest that the killers were Albanian.

Police stopped the men from proceeding but did not prevent them from attacking a media crew from a local TV station and their vehicle.

During the day police confirmed that several cars and one bus were stoned.

People blocked Skopje’s ring road in protest | Photo by: Beta/Ap/Boris Grdanoski

Police Minister Gordana Jankulovska said some 30 people had been brought in for questioning in relation to the case and that they had some initial leads about the perpetrators and their motives.

All political parties across the ethnic board offered condolences to the families of the victims, called for a swift investigation and appealed for calm and restraint. So did the EU and OSCE missions to Skopje and the US embassy.

The shocking incident, ahead of Orthodox Easter, seemed bound to cause more turbulence in the country between Macedonians and the country’s large ethnic Albanian minority.

Tension between the two communities has been rising since February when an off-duty Macedonian policeman shot dead two young Albanians in the northwestern town of Gostivar.

After that, the Balkan country experienced the worst outbreak of inter-ethnic gang violence since 2001, when it narrowly avoided civil war.

During first half of March gangs of mainly young people attacked people in commuter buses and on the streets in capital and in other towns, leaving at least 15 injured. After police apprehended more than 30 suspects the incidents began to subside.

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