Macedonia On Edge
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|Terrence Sterling||April 14th 2012|
From RFE and agencies
In 2001, there was fighting between government security forces and ethnic Albanian fighters. Western diplomats intervened, sending in NATO forces and preventing the Macedonian unrest from becoming a civil war. Last month, several people were injured and scores arrested when young people, both ethnic Macedonians and Albanians, attacked buses and each other using knives, iron bars, and baseball bats sticks during several days of rioting. Four of the five men killed in Smiljkovci were in their 20s, the fifth was in his 40s. Dejan Nedelkovski of Smiljkovci said the killings coming so soon after the March unrest in Skopje has him worried. "I condemn this act, the situation just calmed down after the incidents which happened a month ago on buses, which threatened ethnic relations," ," Nedelkovski said in a reference to the Skopje incidents. "Finally I thought that the situation calmed down, and now we have this." The timing of the killings, just before April 15 celebration of Orthodox Easter in a country where the majority Macedonians are generally Christians, has Macedonian officials concerned.
President Gjorge Ivanov urged "restraint by all."
The OSCE's chairman-in-office, Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore, has called for authorities in Macedonian to swiftly investigate the murders of five young Macedonian men earlier this week. Gilmore said he welcomed "the swift action by the authorities and trust that this horrific incident will be fully investigated, bringing those responsible to justice."
"I join the appeals by the country’s political leaders and our international partners for the people to remain calm and refrain from any actions that could increase tensions between the communities," Gilmore added. Angry Macedonians blocked several streets in the area on April 13, and police were deployed to prevent clashes. Officials said extra police would remain on duty for an undetermined time to ensure there are no outbreaks of violence between the Macedonian and Albanian communities.