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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Macedonia faked 'militant' raid
Macedonian officials have admitted that seven alleged Pakistani militants killed in March 2002 were in fact illegal immigrants shot in cold blood to "impress" the international community.

They said four officers in the security services had been charged with their murder, while former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski may also face charges.

At the time, the interior ministry said they had been killed after trying to ambush police in the capital, Skopje.

But a police spokeswoman said they had in fact been shot in a "staged murder".

The Macedonians were apparently trying to show the outside world that they were serious about participating in the US-led war on terror, officials say.

"It was a monstrous fabrication to get the attention of the international community," Interior Ministry spokeswoman Mirjana Kontevska told a news conference.

Questions asked

When the incident was reported more than two years ago, it was claimed that a new front had opened up in the war on terror.

The Macedonian interior ministry said the seven men of Pakistani origin were killed after opening fire on a police patrol with machine guns.

Mr Boskovski said the dead men had been planning attacks on vital installations and embassies.

But questions soon began to be asked about the authorities' version of events.

Now the public prosecutor's office has brought charges against officers involved in the case and has asked parliament to waive Mr Boskovski's immunity from prosecution.

The former interior minister denies any wrongdoing.

Gunned down

Police spokeswoman Mirjana Konteska told the Associated Press news agency that the victims were illegal immigrants who had been lured into Macedonia by promises that they would be taken to western Europe.

She said they were transported to the Rastanski Lozja area, about 5km north of Skopje, where they were surrounded and gunned down by police.

"They lost their lives in a staged murder," she said.

Ms Konteska told AP the investigation was continuing and more suspects could be charged.

If convicted, they face between 10 years and life in prison.


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