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April 22, 2012

The quintuple murder causes tensions between Albanians and Slavomacedonians

 By Stavros Tzimas, Kathimerini, 22.04.2012 (translated from the Greek)


Nightmarish memories of the armed clashes between Albanians and Slavomacedonians in the Spring of 2001 are awakening in FYROM by the bloody incidents that have been taking place lately, with the high point being the quintuple murder that happened on Good Thursady on the shores of a lake to the North of the town of Skopje. The victims, four 20-year olds and one 45-year old, are all Slavomacedonians, who were fishing on the Zhelezarsko lake, were shot in cold blood by unknown perpetrators who then disappeared, abandoning their car on the border with Kosovo.

Although the identity of the guilty parties has not been discovered, nor are there any testimonies concerning the crime, the public opinions appears almost convinced that this is a crime perpetrated by Albanian nationalists and its extremist wings are calling for revenge. “We must learn who is killing our youth”, furiously cried the head of the orthodox church of fYROM, Archbishop Stefan, in his Easter message. In the centre of Skopje, at the beginning of the week, hundreds of young Slavomacedonian nationalists gathered and attempted to move against the Albanian neighbourhoods in a menacing mood, but were stopped by police forces. The fear of revenge has spread over the Albanian neighbourhoods of the town of Skopje and in areas where the Albanians are a minority the people avoid to circulate on the streets and the schools function only a few hours a day.

The terror has entered the hearts of the Slavomacedonians as well, as they fear a “second Albanian round”, remembering that armed attacks against Slavomacedonian targets had also preceded the armed conflict of 2001, followed by a “mini civil war” that ended with the signing of the Ohrid Agreement. The quintuple murder came after two young Albanians had been murdered last month in the town of Gostivar by a Slavomacedonian police officer over a parking spot, but also after incidents that have been caused lately by groups of fanatics from both sides, who elevate the interethnic tensions to dangerous levels.

Under the threat of a rapid worsening of the interethnic relations all the political leadership of the country condemned the horrible crime, as did the ambassadors of the USA, the E.U., the OSCE, in Skopje who advised the two communities to remain calm. The Media kept the tones low, avoiding throwing oil on the fire.

The police authorities remain silent concerning the investigations, but the scenarii, conspiratorial for the most part, are flourishing. Of course the favoured one is the one that believes that the murder is the work of Albanian extremists aiming at provoking an atmosphere of fear in the Slavomacedonian side and at creating the conditions for the violent upending of the existent interethnic status quo.

However, nothing for the time being does not reveal any activity in Tetovo in such a direction, with the former leader of UCK, and now leader of the largest Albanian party, DUI,  Ali Ahmeti, absolutely controlling the political developments. Mr Ahmeti, who condemned the bloody incident, confirms to Western diplomats who talk with him, that in the ranks of the Albanians there are no armed extremist groups. They do not exclude, however, that some armed nuclei, with links to extremists among the Albanians of Kosovo or of the developing nationalist movement in Albania, might act in an uncontrollable manner following their own strategies.

The same sources underline that in 2001 also such armed groups carried out armed attacks without guidance at the beginning from a united centre, until Ali Ahmeti arrived to give them political coverage under the umbrella of UCK. The conditions of course are not the same today, given that in Ohrid in 2001 the Albanians gained much of that which they had claimed with arms and now move political in a methodical manner aiming one step at a time at co-administration and federalisation of the state.

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