NEWS 08 Aug 17

Macedonia Commemorates Karpalak Ambush Massacre

Macedonia is marking the 16th anniversary of the ambush and killing of ten soldiers on the Skopje-Tetovo highway near the end of the 2001 armed conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Photo: MIA.

A government and army delegation, along with victims’ relatives, laid wreaths on Tuesday at the site of the massacre in the area known as Karpalak on the highway that leads from the capital Skopje to the north-western town of Tetovo.

The commemoration ceremonies started the previous evening with a liturgy in the St. Petka monastery near the central Macedonian town of Prilep, the birthplace of the ten soldiers who died in the attack.

Officials and relatives also laid wreaths in front of the memorial plaque at the Prilep army base.

“We and future generations have a duty to keep the memory alive, to remember 2001 and not to allow it to happen ever again," Lieutenant-Colonel Slavco Kuzmanoski said at the Prilep army base. 

Ten army reservists lost their lives at Karpalak in August 8, 2001 when their convoy was ambushed by Albanian guerrilla fighters.

The soldiers, all from Prilep, died when their army truck was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The massacre breached an already-reached general ceasefire agreement, shocking the public and threatening to undermine efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully.

In the wake of the massacre, outraged residents of Prilep demolished several Albanian shops in the town and torched the central mosque.

The troops were killed as political party leaders and the then president, the late Boris Trajkovski, were agreeing on the final details of the internationally-brokered Ohrid Framework Accord that ended the brief armed conflict.

The accord was signed anyway, just four days after the Karpalak attack, ending the violence between the now-disbanded insurgent force, the National Liberation Army, NLA, and Macedonian security forces.

The peace accord gave more rights to Albanians, who make up a quarter of the country’s population.

The conflict claimed the lives of 68 Macedonian soldiers and police officers, many of whom died in ambushes similar to the one in Karpalak. The number of insurgent fighters killed remains unconfirmed.

With the signing of the peace accord, the ex-fighters were granted an amnesty.

Shortly afterwards, their leaders formed the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, which has since become the most popular ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia.

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