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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 13:28 GMT
Macedonia hawk demands crackdown
Macedonia special police
Macedonian special police sealed off a suspected grave
Macedonia's hardline interior minister has called for a decisive strike against ethnic Albanian rebels, after the death of three police officers and a spate of kidnappings.

Ljube Boskovski said the killings showed that the rebels were active despite their promise to disband, and described the peace process as a "farce".


Macedonia should not lose hope after the murder of the policemen, but it should prepare for definite strike against the bandits or to admit that it can not cope with them and that it needs assistance

Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski
The officers were killed in clashes during a big police operation near the northern city of Tetovo.

They had already sparked fears of a possible renewal of full-scale conflict even before Mr Boskovski's call for an offensive.

The aim of the police operation was to seize control of an alleged mass grave thought to contain the bodies of Macedonian villagers.

The officers also arrested a group of suspected rebels, despite an amnesty approved by the government last month.

The rebels responded by taking dozens of hostages, but officials later said everyone detained had been freed.

Sunday's events marked the worst upsurge in violence since an August peace deal ended a six-month insurgency by ethnic Albanians, who make up about one third of the population.

Mr Boskovski said Macedonia had done everything to carry out President Trajkovski's peace plan.

Peace process criticised

"This means that everything that happened so far was a farce that was presented by the international community, which should bear the responsibility.

"Macedonia should not lose hope after the murder of the policemen, but it should prepare for definite strike against the bandits or to admit that it can not cope with them and that it needs assistance."

Map of Macedonia
Western diplomats described the deployment of 200 police to the vicinity of the mass grave, near the village of Trebos, as a bid by Macedonian hardliners to derail the peace process.

One said it was a "unilateral and completely unnecessary" provocation.

In the abductions that followed a number of ciivilians were seized in the village of Semsevo, in north-west Macedonia, late on Sunday, and another 25 were taken off a bus in the village of Miletino on Monday.

A former commander of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) said it had nothing to do with the abductions.


The key question now is how the Macedonians will react to the police deaths and kidnappings and whether moderate voices will prevail or those who are hellbent on another war."

Macedonia analyst Edward Joseph
The upsurge of violence comes as the Macedonian parliament had been due, after many delays, to consider ratifying the August peace deal - and a range of constitutional changes it calls for to improve the position of the Albanian minority.

The NLA was formally disbanded this summer after it handed over 4,000 weapons to Nato peacekeepers.

On Sunday Macedonian security forces near Trebos also arrested a group of armed men, suspected of being local NLA commanders.

A Macedonia analyst for the International Crisis Group think tank, Edward Joseph, said: "The key question now is how the Macedonians will react to the police deaths and kidnappings and whether moderate voices will prevail or those who are hellbent on another war."

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The BBC's Nicholas Wood
" Within the last 24 hours the Government appears to have ripped up its own amnesty"

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See also:

26 Oct 01 | Europe
Macedonia talks 'progress'
23 Oct 01 | Europe
Blasts rock Macedonia village
31 Aug 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Macedonia: Wobbling Balkans domino
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