News 07 Mar 13

Macedonia Police on Alert For More Unrest

After two days of violent clashes in Skopje last week, police are closely monitoring social networks for fresh calls for more protests.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonian police voiced concern after groups used Facebook to call for a new Albanian protests on Friday against what they describe as the “anti-Albanian policy” of the country and “the torture and attacks on Albanians” carried out by the ethnic Macedonian majority.

Some of the Facebook groups urged people to protest outside the government building after noon prayers finish in the Yaya-Pasha mosque, in the heart of the mainly Albanian Cair municipality.

“No one has officially announced a protest for Friday but we are aware of the calls on social networks and are closely monitoring the situation,” police spokesperson Ivo Kotevski said.

Police called for restraint but warned that trouble-makers would be punished.

The Cair area and central Skopje saw violence last weekend when ethnically-charged protests escalated into clashes with riot police.

Ethnic Macedonians first rioted on Friday against the appointment of Talat Xhaferi, a former Albanian insurgent commander, as the country's new defence chief.

Albanians came out the following day in a counter-protest, alleging they had been targeted by Macedonian mobs.

About 30 people were injured during two days of violence, while cars were demolished and buses torched.

All major political parties condemned the violence but they also blamed each other for causing the unrest. Some observers linked the ethnic tension to the start of the campaign for the March 24 local elections.

On Monday and Tuesday, several mob attacks in streets and on buses were reported, spreading additional concern. The attacks, mostly against minors, are seen as ethnically motivated.

In 2001, Macedonia saw armed conflict between government forces and the ethnic Albanian insurgents of the now disbanded National Liberation Army.

The conflict ended with the signing of a peace accord which granted greater rights to Albanians who make up a quarter of the population.

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