After bloody weekend, UN urges calm in Macedonia
The United Nations has advised that calm be restored to Macedonia, where 22 people were killed in clashes between police forces and an armed group over the weekend.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday issued a statement, urging all sides to “cooperate to restore calm and to fully investigate the events in an objective and transparent manner.”
He appealed for those involved to “exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from any rhetoric and/or actions that may escalate tensions further.”
The Balkan country’s police say eight officers and 14 gunmen have been killed in two days of clashes in the north of the country.
The clashes erupted in the Diva Naselba neighborhood in the northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo at dawn on Saturday and continued on Sunday, said a police spokesman, adding, “Eight police officers were killed and 37 were injured” in the shootout.
He added that 14 corpses in uniforms were found at the site of the clashes that belonged to the members of a “terrorist group.”
In another development on Monday, a Macedonian prosecutor charged 30 people, including 18 Kosovans, with terrorism following the deadly violence.
“The suspects have been accused of terrorism, jeopardizing constitutional order and security,” the prosecutor’s office said, adding that some were also charged with “illegal possession of arms and explosives.”
Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska said on Saturday that the terrorist group had entered Macedonia from an unspecified neighboring country with plans to “use the current political situation to perform attacks on state institutions.”
The Balkan country is grappling with its deepest political crisis since it gained independence from former Yugoslavia in 1991.
The Conservative government and the center-left opposition have accused each other of planning to destabilize the country in order to take or keep power. The opposition Vetevendosje party is also demanding an end to police and military suppression of the country’s Albanians, who make up 25 percent of the country’s two million people.
The violence in Kumanovo, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the capital, Skopje, came two weeks after a police watchtower on Macedonia’s northern border with Kosovo was attacked by 40 gunmen.