DT Mine deaths outrage Macedonia
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (UK)
Saturday 11 August 2001
Mine deaths outrage Macedonia
By Christian Jennings in Hasan Beg
ALBANIAN rebels killed eight Macedonian soldiers
and wounded eight yesterday when they detonating
three anti-tank mines under an army convoy.
Guerrillas of the National Liberation Army have also
taken control of large parts of Tetovo, Macedonia's
second largest city. The mine attack happened three
miles north of the capital, Skopje.
A Macedonian military official said the mines were
probably planted late on Thursday by the same
rebels who killed 10 soldiers the previous day in an
ambush on the main Skopje-Tetovo road.
The bloodshed drew an immediate response from
Ljubco Georgievski, the hardline Prime Minister, who
distanced himself from the peace agreement
recently initialled by his government and pledged
all-out war against the guerrillas. But the
government's military position is worsening by the
According to western defence officials and
observers, NLA members can now move around at
will through the outskirts and suburbs of Tetovo,
half of which fell to them on Wednesday.
Government soldiers and policemen have frequently
deserted their posts and fled in recent weeks in the
face of rebel advances.
In the village of Hasan Beg, furious policemen
wearing body armour and carrying automatic rifles
blocked the road and kicked cars driven by Albanians
yesterday. Drunk on brandy in the 80F morning
heat, they yelled at foreign journalists to turn back.
Further fighting flared yesterday around Tetovo,
which is dominated by Albanians. Macedonia's
fledgling, mercenary-piloted air force bombed the
rebels from Sukhoi-25 ground-attack jets, and made
rocket attacks from seven Mi-24 helicopter gunships
with Ukrainian crews.
The clashes came as Slav and Albanian political
parties, under intense pressure from international
negotiators, prepared to sign a peace deal on
Monday. As so often in the Balkans, talk of peace
and increased fighting are going hand-in-hand.
Under the proposed plan, Albanians would be
guaranteed an increased presence in the country's
police force, greater educational benefits and
increased recognition of Albanian as a national
language in Macedonia.
Up to 3,500 Nato peacekeepers would disarm
Albanian rebels after a formal deal between them
and the Macedonian government.
One western defence official said: "This is going to
be one of the hardest ever Nato missions and
already, even at this planning stage, it's got
'disaster' written all over it in capital letters."
* British troops yesterday arrested a Bosnian Serb
who commanded a corps operating in eastern
Bosnia during the 1992-95 war. Col Vidoje Blagojevic
is thought to have been accused of involvement in
the Srebrenica massacre.