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Turkey condemns fatal shootout in Macedonia

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Foreign Ministry calls for dialogue after at least 22 people, including eight Macedonian police officers, killed in two days of clashes.

Turkey has harshly condemned Sunday’s clashes in Macedonia between security forces and an armed group close to the Kosovo border in which at least eight police officers died.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said late on Monday: “Turkey is against every kind of terrorist attack and harshly condemns the incident.

“Turkey hopes there will be no damage to the balance between ethnic groups in which civil peace was sustained and Turkey hopes the political tension will be sorted out through dialogue.”

Minister of Interior spokesman Ivo Koteski said at a press conference in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, on Sunday afternoon that at least 37 police personnel were also wounded in fighting around the town of Kumanovo, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Skopje.

An agreement known as the “The Ohrid Framework Agreement” was signed in 2001 aimed at ending the armed conflict between the National Liberation Army and the Macedonian security forces and set the groundwork for improving the rights of ethnic Albanians.

The Republic of Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov said on Monday: “Police have prevented coordinated terrorist attacks at different locations in the country that would cause serious destabilization, chaos and fear.”

Republic of Macedonia’s Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska said police had intercepted a “terrorist group (that) was planning to attack strategic targets” early on Saturday morning, Macedonia’s official agency MIA reported. The incident sparked a gun battle that continued throughout the day.

Jankulovska said 20 suspects surrendered at about 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), but one armed group refused to give in.
An Anadolu Agency correspondent at the scene reported gunfire coming from Tode Mendol on the outskirts of Kumanovo on Sunday morning.

A heavy police presence remained in the town, with a helicopter flying overhead.

Kumanovo resident Mladen Krsteski said before the police operation ended: “Yesterday. it was just like a real war and this morning shots can be heard again.”

“I hope that it will all end very quickly because this is not good for anybody. I hope the police and army will hunt down all the terrorists so that we can continue with (our) normal lives.”

Stefan Andevski added: “The whole town is scared. We hope that all this will end soon. Yesterday, they said that they have completed the operation but this morning we heard gunfire again. The situation is not very good.”

Last month, a police station in Gosince, near Kumanovo, was attacked by a group of armed men who claimed to be members of the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Macedonia has a significant ethnic Albanian population and in 2001 the KLA, which fought Serbian forces for Kosovan independence in the 1990s, launched an insurgency in Macedonia, demanding more rights for ethnic Albanians.

Resource: Anadolu Agency, May 11, 2015

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