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Macedonian Military Victory Day Raid on National Liberaton Army (UCK) HQ Kumanovo 9th May 2015

Macedonian prosecutors have charged 30 people with terrorism after a shootout in the northern town of Kumanovo left 22 dead, including eight police officers.

Dozens of cars and houses were destroyed during the violence in Kumanovo, around 40 kilometres north of Skopje.

“I was awaken by grenades early on Saturday morning,” 57-year-old resident Bafti Ramadan said.

“I immediately went to the basement with my family and we hid there until police came in the evening.

“We were taken to Skopje for questioning and released only on Sunday morning. When we came back we found our house destroyed and robbed, I saw blood stains in a room on the floor.”

The incident came less than three weeks after around 40 Kosovo Albanians briefly seized control of a police station on Macedonia’s northern border, demanding the creation of an Albanian state in Macedonia.

Ethnic Albanians make up around one quarter of Macedonia’s 2.1 million population.

The 2001 Macedonian conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels ended with an agreement providing more rights to the minority community.

However, relations between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians remain strained.

The prosecutor’s office said some had also been charged with illegal possession of arms and explosives.

It said 18 of the accused were ethnic Albanians from neighbouring Serbian region of Kosovo, most of whom entered Macedonia illegally.

The breakaway territory’s top leaders condemned “any involvement” of Kosovans from Serbia in the clashes, which erupted when police moved in on the gunmen on Saturday.

The clashes in Kumanovo were the worst in Macedonia for 14 years, and raised fears of fresh unrest similar to the country’s 2001 ethnic conflict.

Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski claimed a “particularly dangerous terrorist group” of ethnic Albanians had been planning a major attack in the Balkan country.

But Macedonian opposition and analysts suggested the timing of the violence — with the government under huge pressure over a series of alleged misdemeanours — was suspicious.



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