Violence decreases above Tetovo throughout the week
Security forces launched a massive onslaught against the extremists situated above Tetovo last weekend. The operation involved artillery, helicopters and tanks and according to government sources managed to completely rout the extremists based at the Tetovsko Kale and the surrounding villages along Tetovo—Popova Sapka route (Lisec, Gajre, Selce, Lavce and Drenok). They were driven up the mountain and back towards the Kosovo border. Throughout the week, groups of men were seen to cross the border back into Kosovo. Due to the wide range of groups reporting the withdrawals, it is impossible to gauge an accurate total because of overlap.
Two Macedonian soldiers, a police officer and six civilians (five of whom were Albanian) were injured in the operation, according to state media sources by ammunition fired down from the extremists' positions.
On Monday, the Macedonian authorities announced that the explosions heard from Tetovo were bomb disposal squads at work, clearing the area of land-mines. They also announced seizure of a weapons cache from Tetovsko Kale, which included weapons, ammunition and other military materials sufficient to fill four trucks.
Situation in the Skopska Crna Gora deteriorates
As the situation stabilized above Tetovo at the beginning of the week, the situation in the Skopsko Crna Gora (the mountainous region north of Skopje that borders Kosovo) deteriorated. Extremists seized the village of Graçani, which led to an exchange of fire with the security forces. On Monday, a police vehicle was sprayed with bullets in the Skopje village of Visbegovo. Two police officers were injured. In the village of Radusha (also near Skopje), an army vehicle hit an anti-tank mine.
On Wednesday, the security forces launched a major assault on these new rebel positions. The dual approach targeted rebels in Graçani and Tanushevci simultaneously and comprised a day long attack in which heavy artillery and helicopters were used.
EU: On a visit to Skopje, the EU's foreign affairs chief, Chris Patten, warned Kosovar Albanians that they must take a clear stand against the UÇKombëtare's violence or they risk losing international favor. Kosovo is completely dependent on external aid in the rebuilding of its economy and would pay highly were it to incur displeasure by supporting the rebels.
USA: Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley announced that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has signed a deployment order dispatching a unit of Air Force Predator unmanned drones to the border area. The unit is likely to comprise two or three planes, and an 80-man support troop will arrive shortly. It is not clear at present where it will be based. Predator planes have been deployed previously in the region, but were withdrawn due to the severe winter conditions.
France: The Defense Ministry pledged to dispatch between 10 and 15 drones to monitor the border.
UK: Britain committed a further 120 troops to NATO's force in Kosovo to track the movement and position of the guerrillas. The new unit will operate unmanned Phoenix surveillance aircraft and will be in place next month. Prime Minister Tony Blair also said British and Scandinavian soldiers now serving in the NATO-led KFOR force in Kosovo would form a 400-strong unit for quick deployment along the Macedonia-Kosovo border.
OSCE: OSCE Chairman in Office Mircea Geoana, the organization's High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel, and Carlo Ungaro, chief of the OSCE mission in Skopje, met on 27 March in Bucharest to discuss the current situation and decided to convene a meeting of the organization's "troika"—made up by the foreign ministers of Austria, Portugal and Romania—for 3 April in the Macedonian capital.
NATO: Secretary General George Robertson praised Macedonia for demonstrating commendable restraint in the weekend assault on extremists above Tetovo. This commendation has prompted criticism from certain Albanian quarters who criticize the destruction of civilian property; particularly houses and livestock. The government has not yet made any pledge to assist civilians affected in this way by the crisis.
Hague: International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte said on Wednesday she would open an investigation into possible war crimes committed during a month of violence in Macedonia. An Interior Ministry spokesman later referred to incidents of hostage taking and rape, which were currently at a stage of preliminary investigation before details were submitted to ICTY.
Macedonian Press: The coverage of the heavy assaults against the rebels was restrained on both sides. As Reuters reports, there was no triumphalism in Slav newspapers and no bitterness in the Albanian press. All agreed that the time had come for dialogue.
Albania: The Albanian Foreign Ministry expressed regret at last week's killing of two ethnic Albanian civilians by police in Tetovo. The Ministry went on to urge Macedonian Albanians to use only political means to resolve their grievances.
Eleanor Pritchard, 30 March 2001
- Archive of Macedonian news reviews
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page