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11, June-2001.

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Monday.

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An Mi-24 helicopter fires flares after an early morning attack on Matejce village June 11, 2001 as Macedonian artillery, tanks and helicopters blasted villages held by rebel ethnic Albanians in northern Macedonia. Macedonians ignored threats by insurgents to attack Skopje unless the onslaught ceases. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

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Slupcane village sits under plumes of smoke during an early morning shelling by Macedonian forces June 11, 2001 as artillery, tanks and helicopters blasted villages held by rebel ethnic Albanian in northern Macedonia. Macedonians ignored threats by insurgents to attack Skopje unless the onslaught ceases. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT'S PRESS CONFERENCE ON SECURITY SITUATION.

MIA

Antonio Milososki, spokesperson of the Macedonian Government, at Monday press conference condemned the Sunday statement of Pavle Trajanov, leader of the Democratic Alliance and former Interior Minister, where he stated several misinformation on the security of the city of Skopje, and caused fear and panic among the Macedonian citizens.

"We are all aware that he, as a former interior minister, is familiar with the plan of defense of the city of Skopje, and knows which buildings and institutions are vital to the city, but i wonder if there is a necessity for him to present those military and state secrets at a press conference" Milososki said.

Milososki appealed to the citizens not to worry about the security, because the security forces have control over the situation. "Nevertheless, the citizens should take into consideration the complexity of the situation, and be very careful" Milososki added.

Stevo Pendarovski, spokesperson of the Macedonian Interior Ministry, informed that the Sunday night stoppage of electric power supply in some parts of Skopje was due to a defect of the power transformer on the Vodno Mountain. Pendarovski added that a team of the Macedonian Electric Power Supply Company repaired the transformer.

Pendarovski said that until 13:00, Monday, 955 persons, mostly from Aracinovo, Cento and the other places in the area, left for Kosovo at the border crossing Blace. At the border crossing Tabanovce, 380 people from Gostivar, Tetovo, and the villages in the area, left for Southern Serbia, while at the border crossing Jazince, 215 persons, mostly from Tetovo and Gostivar, left Macedonia. On Sunday, 1,566 persons, mostly from Aracinovo, left Macedonia through the border crossing Blace.

Pendarovski confirmed the information that Sunday night some of the citizens of Stajkovci and some other villages demanded from the Ministry to supply them with weapons, so as to organize themselves into night watches, but the police rejected this demand. "It is true that some of these citizens left the police station in Avtokomanda, Skopje armed, but those persons were drafted by the order the Interior Minister issued Sunday night for mobilization of the police reserves from that region" Pendarovski said.

In this context, Milososki appealed to the citizens not to organize themselves into armed groups by themselves, adding "everyone who would like to help Macedonia in these hard times may enlist voluntarily in the Macedonian Police and Army, according to the legal regulations".

According to Pendarovski, in the area of Saraj and Matka, increased activity and gathering of civilians have been noticed, but no grouping of uniformed persons was noticed. "So far, we do not have confirmed findings for this area" Pendarovski said.

Pendarovski informed that the situation in Aracinovo is still tense, but that there is no shooting, and that the local population continues to leave the village.

He confirmed the information that the Macedonian security forces intercepted and destroyed a group of terrorists leading two horses near the village of Recica - Tetovo.

He denied the allegations that an employee of the Tetovo department of the Macedonian Interior Ministry gave away to the terrorists the route of the Macedonian security forces patrol that was ambushed and massacred near Vejce. "There is no proofs that an employee of the Ministry committed such horrible deed. The Interior Ministry initiated disciplinary action against the recent head of the uniformed part of the Tetovo police, on a suspicion that he did not followed the regular procedure and methodology in the investigation of the Vejce massacre case" Pendarovski pointed out.

Macedonia defies threats to capital.

BBC

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The Macedonian army has resumed shelling rebel-held villages in the north of the country, ignoring a threat by ethnic Albanian guerrillas to retaliate against the capital, Skopje.

About 1,000 rebels, who have been in control of the village of Aracinovo, less than 10km (6 miles) from Skopje since last Friday had given the government until 0200 GMT to stop its attacks in northern Macedonia.


So far there has been no sign of a retaliatory attack on the capital.

Its airport, seen as a likely rebel target, remained open. But at least two airlines, including British Airways, were reported to have suspended flights in case of trouble.

More than 10,000 ethnic Albanians fled the fighting during the weekend, crossing into neighbouring Kosovo.

Defiance

The army began shelling the villages of Slupcane and Matejce shortly after first light at 0615 am (0415 GMT).

Huge plumes of smoke rose from close to the villages as the echo of blasts rolled around the valley.

Witnesses said bursts of machine gun and small arms fire could also be heard, but there was no sign of any ground assault against the rebels.

Interior ministry forces say they have completely surrounded the villages.

A spokesman for the Macedonian Government has repeated that there is no prospect of any talks with the rebels.

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Troops have surrounded rebel-held villages.

Skopje apprehensive

Skopje is reported to be calm. There are no extra security forces on its streets.

In his ultimatum on Sunday, guerrilla leader Commander Hoxha threatened attacks on the airport, an oil refinery and a main highway.

He said his forces possessed the weapons to carry out the threat, although analysts have said they may not able to reach the heart of the capital.

BBC correspondent Paul Anderson, in Skopje, says any attack on the capital would have disastrous consequences for the Macedonian Government.

Not only would it derail the flickerings of a dialogue for peace, mediated by Western envoys over the weekend, but it would open up a new front and stretch the ability of the police and army to deal with the rebels.

Exodus

The weekend saw the biggest exodus of ethnic Albanians fleeing for the safety of Kosovo.

Aid agencies registered over 10,0000 exhausted and dehydrated people, some of them from Aracinovo.

The total now stands at around 30,000, but officials expect the number to rise significantly if the fighting continues.

The rebels demand to be included in talks on the country's future - something explicitly ruled out by the government.

Rebels threaten to shell Skopje.

The Times

BY JOHN PHILLIPS AND DRAGAN PETROVIC IN BELGRADE

ETHNIC Albanian rebels tightened their grip on a strategic suburb of Skopje yesterday and threatened to shell the capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia if the Government did not halt an army offensive.
The rebels killed a Macedonian soldier and injured three others as the army tried to recapture Slupcane, a village 25 miles northeast of Skopje.

Troops reinforced positions around Skopjes airport on the northern outskirts after the National Liberation Army, campaigning for greater rights for the Albanian minority, seized the district of Aracinovo, six miles from the centre of the city, on Friday.

The rebels said that they would shell the airport, an oil refinery and Skopjes centre if Ljubco Georgevski, the Prime Minister, did not halt by today an offensive against rebel-held villages in Kumanovo, 15 miles from Aracinovo.

Skopje: soldier killed.

Reuters

A MACEDONIAN soldier died in an assault on a village held by ethnic Albanian rebels yesterday and residents fled a suburb of the capital after insurgents advanced to within firing range of their homes.

The government said it was stepping up security in Skopje and claimed the rebel advance into Aracinovo on Friday, about six miles from the city and its airport, would not disrupt flights.

The defence ministry said the soldier died during an attack on Slupcane, a village about 25 miles north-east of the capital. Government forces have been pounding Slupcane and nearby villages since Friday in a bid to oust National Liberation Army guerrillas.

The death was the first on the government side since five soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush on Tuesday near Tetovo in the most violent incident since April.

About 25 troops have been reported killed since the fighting began in February. Rebel casualties are unknown. - Reuters

Skopje airport open despite rebel attack threat.

Reuters

SKOPJE, May 11 (Reuters) - Skopje's main airport was open on Monday despite a threat by ethnic Albanian rebels to shell it and other targets around the Macedonian capital, an airport official said.

British Airways cancelled a flight from London on Monday, the official said, adding she did not know the reason.

"The airport is open and flights are taking off and landing," she said.

The Macedonian army resumed heavy shelling of villages held by ethnic Albanian rebels early on Monday, ignoring threats by insurgents to attack downtown Skopje and targets including the ariport if the onslaught did not cease.

The airport and Skopje are both about 10 kms (six miles) from a small town captured by the rebels on Friday.

It is unclear whether the rebels, who say they are fighting to end discrimination against minority Albanians in Macedonia, have weapons able to strike so far. The government, backed by Western powers, say the rebels want chaos in the Balkan state.

US condemns ethnic Albanian guerrilla attacks in Macedonia.

AFP

WASHINGTON, June 11 (AFP) - The United States on Monday categorically condemned recent attacks by the ethnic Albanian guerrillas in Macedonia, calling them a threat to stability in the Balkans.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the National Liberation Army's occupation of the town of Aracinovo had escalated the conflict and warned the guerrillas that their move there could interfere with NATO operations. "The United States condemns in the strongest terms the extremist actions of the so-called National Liberation Army," Boucher said. "We oppose their violent tactics, which aim to undermine Macedonian democracy and threaten regional stability.

"We call for an end to the violence and for the National Liberation Army to withdraw immediately, beginning with Aracinovo," he told reporters, referring to the Skopje suburb from where the rebels have threatened to attack the capital. "With the occupation of Aracinovo, the extremists have escalated the conflict and pose a potential threat to NATO supply lines," he said, referring to the route used by the alliance to carry goods to its peacekeeping troops in Kosovo.

In addition to blasting the guerrillas, Boucher welcomed the Macedonian government's declaration of ceasefire earlier Monday as "courageous," and urged Skopje to continue using restraint in responding to the attacks. The ceasefire is "another strong indication of the courageous restraint in the face of extremist provocations," he said. "We continue to urge the government of Macedonia to act with restraint in response to the extremist provocations, to use only that force which is necessary and proportionate, and to take steps to avoid endangering civilians." A senior official denied the ceasefire was a response to an earlier rebel threat to bombard the capital from a Aracinovo which the guerrillas seized Friday. The NLA, which says its is fighting for Albanian rights but whose armed campaign had forced thousands of people to leave their homes, responded by declaring its own truce, valid for 24-hours.

BA cancels flights to Macedonia.

Evening Standard

British Airways today cancelled all flights to Macedonia as violence in the province escalated. Government troops and ethnic Albanian rebels are engaged in armed clashes near the capital, Skopje.

A guerrilla leader said his forces were in striking distance of strategic targets such as the international airport and an oil refinery after the rebels on Saturday solidified control of the village of Aracinovo, six miles east of Skopje.

The army pounded them with tank and artillery fire, bringing war to the edge of Skopje for the first time. "In light of a Foreign Office recommendation, we have cancelled all of today's flights to Skopje," a British Airways spokesman said today.

Macedonia has been in conflict since February. The rebel National Liberation Army says it is fighting to end discrimination by the country's Slav majority against the ethnic Albanian minority. Macedonia's authorities say the NLA wants to break up the country. The US state department has warned that those travelling or living in the region need to be extremely careful.

Northern Macedonia Short of Water.

AP

KUMANOVO, Macedonia (AP) -- A week after ethnic Albanian rebels seized the main source of water for the region, Saso Petkovski is thinking about more than just the fighting -- he wants a bath. ''I just want a decent bath or a shower with plenty of water,'' the 30-year-old Macedonian Slav said, mopping his brow as he lined up with dozens of others in front of a government-provided water truck Monday.

He and some 100,000 others in the northern city of Kumanovo and a cluster of villages to the west have gone without water for more than a week since the rebels took control of nearby Lipkovo Lake. ''Bathrooms have been useless for days,'' Petkovski said, waving his hand before his nose. Long-abandoned wells are being reopened in the semi-rural suburbs, providing some relief. But the water is not drinking quality, and it's not enough to fill residents' other needs. ''Old outhouses are back in use, can you imagine?'' Petkovski said.

The NATO-led contingent in Macedonia sent tanker trucks loaded with nearly 68,000 gallons of drinking water a day to Kumanovo on Monday, but the supply is only half what the city needs. A day after the rebels threatened to shell Skopje, the government declared a cease-fire Monday. Authorities hoped the lull in fighting would allow them the chance to reconnect water lines and bring food to residents trapped in rebel-held villages. A short time later, the rebels also announced a one-day cease-fire.

Engineers are ready to go up to Lipkovo Lake to restart the water supply system, said International Red Cross spokeswoman Amanda Cross. But ''we are still waiting for the security situation to improve,'' she said. Until then, Petkovski and his wife shower by taking turns pouring water over each other from a metal canister, hardly satisfying on days when temperatures near 90.

The lack of water and fears that fighting may come to their city have prompted some to leave Kumanovo, Petkovski said. He, too, was considering taking his wife and 8-year-old daughter to relatives in Skopje, despite anxieties raised there by a weekend rebel takeover of Aracinovo, southeast of the capital. Life goes on -- but with limitations. Many Kumanovo restaurants have closed, and those open struggle to keep glasses and plates clean. Ethnic Albanian barber Drgut Agushi says his business has suffered since the violence erupted and taps began running dry. ''On a good day, I have five customers,'' Agushi said.

U.S. Troops in Kosovo Seize 12 Heading for Macedonia.

Reuters

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, June 11 (Reuters) - U.S. peacekeepers have detained 12 people suspected of ferrying weapons from Kosovo to ethnic Albanian rebels fighting in neighbouring Macedonia, a spokesman said on Monday.

In the largest of three seizures on Saturday night, peacekeepers stopped six ethnic Albanians in five vehicles packed with 27 anti-personnel mines, 40 machineguns, six rocket-propelled grenades, a mortar, eight pistols and ammunition.

The black sports utility vehicles also carried uniforms, cash, food and water and medical supplies, said Captain Dan Byer, a spokesman for the peacekeepers.

"They were loaded. They had tons of water, tons of clothes, the equivalent of $25,000, medical supplies," said Byer.

Peacekeepers later detained four people near a cache of 12 mortar bombs and another two people with two cases of ammunition and pieces of a mortar, according to a press statement from U.S. peacekeepers.

"My message to the extremists is a simple one -- stop now," said U.S. Colonel Anthony Tata, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Kosovo. "I am very proud of my soldiers. They superbly handled a very dangerous mission."

The detained men were taken to the U.S. Camp Bondsteel detention facility in Kosovo, a Yugoslav province run as a de facto international protectorate since NATO occupied it in 1999 after bombing Yugoslavia.

Nine suspected ethnic Albanian rebels from Macedonia were detained by U.S. peacekeepers on May 31.

NATO-led peacekeepers announced on Friday they were stepping up patrols on the Kosovo side of the border with Macedonia, scene of a four-month rebel insurgency.

Thousands of ethnic Albanians have fled from fighting in Macedonia into Kosovo, where most of the population is ethnic Albanian, over the last three days.

The Macedonian army resumed heavy shelling of villages held by ethnic Albanian rebels early on Monday, ignoring threats by insurgents to attack downtown Skopje and targets including the ariport unless the onslaught ceases.

Macedonian rebels declare new ceasefire.

AFP

TIRANA, June 11 (AFP) -
Ethnic Albanian rebels fighting security forces in Macedonia declared a new 24-hour ceasefire Monday, according to a statement from the rebel group's political representative received here.

The ceasefire started at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) Monday and will run to 2:00 pm Tuesday, the statement, signed by Ali Ahmeti, said.

The temporary truce comes after the Macedonian government ceased its shelling of rebel-held villages in the north of the country at 1:30 pm Monday to allow an international humanitarian mission into the area.

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