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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 18:49 GMT 19:49 UK
Macedonia minister 'shoots three'
Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski firing the new weapon
Boskovski is "fond of such weapons"
Macedonia's gung-ho interior minister is facing calls for his resignation after his attempt at a live-firing exercise with a grenade launcher ended with injuries in the crowd around him.

Ljube Boskovski is said to have so admired the weapon that he decided to put it to the test himself.


I am deeply sorry for the accident. Such things happen

Ljube Boskovski, Macedonian Interior Minister

But the grenade hit a rock and shrapnel ricocheted back causing injuries among the watching crowd of officials and journalists.

The incident occurred at the end of a training exercise for a special unit of Macedonian police - known as the Lions - at the lakeside resort of Mavrovo.

Four people were injured - hospital sources said three were admitted but their injuries were not life-threatening.

They include two members of the interior ministry as well as a journalist working for the daily Dnevnik.

Court threat

Dnevnik editor Branko Gerovski has released a statement saying he will be filing a suit for criminal negligence and grievous bodily harm. And the Union of Journalists has called for the minister's resignation.

Mr Boskovski has appeared on television to say that, as minister, he bears ultimate responsibility for the incident.

Special police officers give first aid to their colleague Marinko Kockovski, one of those injured.
Injured bystanders were treated for shrapnel wounds
"I am deeply sorry for the accident," he said. "Such things happen."

But the commander of the Lions, Colonel Boban Utkovski, said the minister was not to blame - the injured persons had disregarded police warnings to stay at a distance from the firing.

He said Mr Boskovski was an experienced user of grenade launchers.

"Boskovski has used them before since he is very fond of such kind of weapons," Colonel Utkovski said.

Hardliner

The BBC's Nicholas Wood says Mr Boskovski is an erratic figure in the cabinet of Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski.

He took a strong line against ethnic Albanian insurgents last year, deploying the Lions in conflict areas, earning himself the reputation of a leading opponent of the country's peace process.

The Lions were surrounded by much controversy because of allegations that supporters of Mr Boskovski's party, the nationalist VMRO, were recruited in large numbers.

That created unease among Macedonians themselves as well as within the international community.


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See also:

12 Mar 02 | Europe
Donors double Macedonia aid
07 Mar 02 | Europe
Macedonia passes rebel amnesty
07 Dec 01 | Europe
Macedonia aid under threat
20 Nov 01 | Europe
Macedonia 'war crimes' probe
16 Nov 01 | Europe
Macedonia adopts new constitution
09 Oct 01 | Europe
Macedonia grants rebels amnesty
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