2001 insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia

2001 insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia

conflict=Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia
partof= the Yugoslav Wars

caption=Macedonian special police forces in Tetovo
date=January - November 2001
place=Polog region of the Republic of Macedonia near the border with Albania & FR Yugoslavia (Kosovo)
result=Ceasefire, Albanian militants disarmed, Ohrid Agreement signed
commander1=Boris Trajkovski
Ljube Boškoski
commander2=Ali Ahmeti
casualties1=63 (Macedonian sources)
casualties2=64 (NLA sources)
casualties3=Civilian casualties:
70 dead (60 ethnic Albanians, 10 ethnic Macedonians)
2 EU monitors [ [http://www.alb-net.com/amcc/cgi-bin/viewnews.cgi?newsid995664368,4676 AMCC Error ] ]
1 UK soldier killed [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1511418.stm BBC News | UK | British soldier killed in Macedonia ] ] |

The insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia (January - November 2001) was an armed conflict which began when the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) militant group attacked the security forces of the Republic of Macedonia at the beginning of January 2001. The conflict lasted throughout most of the year, although overall casualties remained limited to several dozen for either side, according to the sources from both of the sides in the conflict. It is the only example of forces arriving from an UN protectorate and attacking a sovereign country.


On gaining independence from Yugoslavia, Macedonia was set as a republic with unicameral parliament, a 120-seat National Assembly and a popularly elected President. Contrary to most other former Yugoslav republics, it managed to separate from Yugoslavia without any real bloodshed. For the first seven years it was ruled by former socialists, who prevented the country from being drawn into any kind of conflict. The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) could not push through the necessary reforms of the society and economy. On the contrary, during the 1990s it came under pressure for massive corruption and connections to local, Serbian, and Albanian organized crime, mainly consisting of large-scale smugglers, who acted against UN-imposed embargoes on Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Consequently, this government was voted out on parliamentary elections in 1998 in favour of a coalition of nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), Democratic Alternative (DA), and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

Ethnic tensions

The new government immediately faced immense problems and began losing popularity. By November 2000 the DA withdrew from the coalition and was replaced by the small Liberal Party. Political scandals and economic difficulties had a heavy impact on the government, which was considered as corrupt by the population as previous SDSM. Clearly, this situation had a severe impact on relations between the ethnic Macedonian majority and ethnic Albanian minority, which were already tense ever since country's independence even if not as bad as in Kosovo. On one side, the Albanians in Macedonia demanded greater cultural and educational rights, as well as representation in the government, armed forces and police; on the other side, large Serbian, Macedonian and Albanian, but also Greek and Bulgarian, smuggling bands were active in Macedonia in the 1990s. Their business flourished as long as the UN embargoes against FRY were in force, and while SDSM was in power, almost nothing was done against their activity.However, the conflict between the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo and the conduct of presidential elections in Macedonia in 1999, exacerbated inter-ethnic tensions. Charges of violence and ballot-stuffing highlighted tensions, further increased by a flood of 250,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees on the height of the Kosovo War. Eventually even the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) became present in Macedonia, establishing bases and supply centres from which it was dispatching fighters into FRY. It did not last very long until some of Albanian bands formed their own militias: private "bodyguards" were available in sufficient number - and omnipresent whenever specific local bosses felt their rights or interests threatened. Due to the uprisings and chaos in Albania, in 1996, and then the war in Kosovo, there were now plenty of weapons available at low prices.Smuggling has long traditions in the Balkans, and in the case of Macedonia in the 1990s even top government officials were involved in different smuggling operations with Kosovo and Albania which were mainly run by ethnic Albanians. During the crisis on Kosovo, in 1998 and 1999, large stockpiles of weapons intended for KLA were stored in depots in villages on the Macedonian border to Kosovo. Smuggling of fuels, narcotics, tobacco, white slaves, and even chocolate was widespread and top Macedonian political brass was getting financial compensation for doing nothing against such crimes. Whoever protested within the Macedonian authorities was removed from his post. This dangerous combination of ethnic tensions and organized crime now only needed a spark that would cause the fire. While redirecting smuggling channels from Kosovo to Macedonia and gearing up the propaganda machine against the Macedonian government especially among the ethnic Albanians living abroad, the NLA began attacking police and army personnel and facilities, but then also public facilities (like rail lines).


Beginning of the Albanian insurgency

The first actions by ethnic Albanians in Macedonia occurred in late 2000 and early 2001, mainly along Macedonia's border with then-United Nations-administered Serbian province of Kosovo. The insurgents acted in a pattern similar to the one seen in Kosovo in late 1997 and through 1998, according to which they gradually took over one village after the other. Any such efforts were initially “peaceful”, the non-Albanian population being “encouraged” to leave. [ [http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_384.shtml Macedonia, 2001 ] ] But, in January-February 2001 combat actions against legitimate authorities begun.

The government at first did nothing against the situation because it received assurances, that what was going on was not directed against Macedonia. Satisfied with the answer and their payments the authorities waited for almost two months – and then the situation was almost immediately out of control, in fact so much that the government was taken by surprise. [ [http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_384.shtml Macedonia, 2001 ] ]

In January 2001 a group calling itself the National Liberation Army (NLA) appeared, claiming responsibility for attacks on police forces. The leaders of this NLA – including Ali Ahmeti and his uncle, Fazli Veliu, were all from Western Macedonia. They stated to have “between several hundreds and thousands” of fighters under arms. However, they were not supported by either of the two main ethnic Albanian political parties. The Macedonian government claimed that the rebels were actually members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who infiltrated the country from Kosovo. In fact, the NLA-fighters considered Kosovo as “safe haven” where they could pull back in the case of larger Macedonian actions against them. [ [http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_384.shtml Macedonia, 2001 ] ]

Macedonian reprisals

After several attacks on Macedonian security forces, Macedonians took to the streets of some towns, attacking and setting on fire Albanian-owned shops, mosques and houses. Such attacks took place mainly in Prilep, Skopje and Bitola. [ [http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/europe/05/01/macedonia.clashes/index.html CNN.com] Riot targets ethnic Albanians, May 1, 2001] Local Macedonian citizens in Prilep demanded weapons to attack neighboring Albanian-populated villages, which they claimed needed to be done "in order to save Macedonia". Those targeted in the attacks were mostly Albanians.


Ceasefire and disarmament

After the Ohrid Agreement, the rebels agreed to cease-fire in June, however there were other agreements in August, before settling on a final one in January 2002. Under the Ohrid Agreement, the Macedonian government pledged to improve the rights of the Albanian population, that makes up just over 25.3 per cent of the population. Those rights include making Albanian language an official language, increasing the participation of ethnic Albanians in government institutions, police and army. Most importantly, under the Ohrid Agreement, the Macedonian government agreed to a new model of decentralization.

The Albanian side agreed to give up any separatist demands and to fully recognize all Macedonian institutions. In addition, according to this accord the NLA was to disarm and hand over their weapons to a NATO force.

Operation "Essential Harvest" was officially launched on 22 August and effectively started on 27 August. This 30-day mission involved approximately 3500 NATO and Macedonian troops to disarm the NLA and destroy their weapons. Just hours after NATO wrapped up the operation, Ali Ahmeti told reporters attending a news conference in the rebel stronghold of Sipkovica that he was dissolving the National Liberation Army and that it was time for ethnic reconciliation.

Several months after the conflict, some armed provocations persisted. Small bombings and shootings used to happen. The most serious provocations happened when three Macedonian police officers were killed in an ambush by ethnic Albanian gunmen on November 12 2001. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1650954.stm "Macedonia police killed in ambush"] , "BBC", November 12, 2001]

Casualties and displacement

Casualty figures remain uncertain. By March 19, 2001, the BBC reported that Macedonian security forces claimed five of their soldiers were killed, while the NLA claimed it had killed 11. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1229991.stm "Casualties in the Macedonian conflict"] , "BBC", March 19, 2001] No definitive NLA casualty figures were cited at the time. On December 25, 2001, the Alternative Information Network [ [http://www2.iisg.nl/id/Systematik.asp?cat=8&id=107 "AIM overview"] , and [http://www.humanrights.coe.int/media/activities/stability%20pact/2000/table.htm "AIM listings on the Council of Europe programmes, 2000-2001"] , "Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe"] cited figures of 63 deaths claimed by Macedonian security forces for their side and 64 deaths claimed by the NLA for their fighters. About 60 ethnic Albanian civilians are thought to have been killed while possibly about ten ethnic Macedonians died during the conflict (Macedonian authorities did not release figures for the latter at the time). [ [http://www.aimpress.ch/dyn/trae/archive/data/200112/11230-003-trae-sko.htm "What Do the Casualties of War Amount to?"] , "Alternative Information Network (AIM)", December 25, 2001] As of|2005|12, the fate of twenty "disappeared" civilians —13 ethnic Macedonians, six ethnic Albanians and one Bulgarian citizen— remains unknown. [ [http://web.amnesty.org/report2006/mkd-summary-eng "Macedonia: Covering events from January - December 2005"] , "Amnesty International", 2006] By August 2001, the number of people displaced by the war reached 170,000 of which 74,000 displaced internally. As of|2004|1, 2,600 remained displaced. [ [http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=RSDCOI&id=3c5533545 "Profile of internal displacement: Macedonia"] , "United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees", February 26, 2004]

Alleged war crimes

Although the conflict in Macedonia was brief, it was not scant of war crimes. The most notable incident was the infamous Vejce massacre where Albanian guerrillas, killed 8 Macedonian soldiers and dismembered and vandalized their corpses. On another occasion Albanian guerrillas inscribed their names with knives on the backs on some construction workers. [ [http://www.realitymacedonia.org.mk/web/news_page.asp?nid=204 A1 coverage] Reality Macedonia, August 08, 2001] News of the massacre sparked local uprisings against Muslims, such revolts included burning and vandalising shops and mosques. Surviving members of the roadside patrol that were massacred gave eyewitness testimony of the killings. They claimed that the massacre was carried out by a group of 10 bearded guerrillas with knives. The witnesses said that only one of the victims were shot and the remaining 7 victims were murdered with knives and some were even burned alive. [ [http://www.veritas.com.mk/rubAng/polemiks/enpolemiks2.html Veritas] Utrinski vesnik, Sonya Kramarska, 2006] The residents of the predominantly Albanian village prevent the families of the victims to visit the site of the massacre. [ [http://www.realitymacedonia.org.mk/web/news_page.asp?nid=2554 Reality Macedonia] 12.05.2003]

Among other crimes, the NLA militants blew up the 13th-century Orthodox monastery Sveti Atanasij in the village of Lesok [http://www.guardian.co.uk/macedonia/story/0,,540417,00.html] and is now under reconstruction.

A three-day operation by Macedonian police against the predominantly ethnic Albanian village of Ljuboten, from August 10-12, 2001. The operation left ten civilians dead and resulted in the arrest of more than 100 men, many of whom were severely beaten while in police custody. According to the Macedonian government there was a presence of Albanian National Liberation Army in the village, however the Human Rights Watch investigation on the ground in Ljuboten found no evidence of it. These events led to the trial of the Macedonian minister of internal affairs of the time, Ljube Boškovski, in the International War Crime Tribunal in The Hague. [http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/macedonia/ Macedonia. Crimes Against Civilians: Abuses by Macedonian Forces in Ljuboten, August 10-12, 2001] ] .

ee also

*Ohrid Agreement
*Operation Essential Harvest
*Preševo valley crisis
*Operation Mountain Storm


External links

* [http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2002.nsf/eur/macedonia!Open Casualties and displacement]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/world/2001/review_of_2001/1703711.stm "Macedonia: Step back from the abyss"] , "BBC", December 29, 2001
* [http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr115.html "Macedonia: Understanding History, Preventing Future Conflict"] , "United States Institute of Peace", Special Report No. 115, February, 2004
* [http://www.antiwar.com/orig/taylor1.html "Macedonia's Civil War: 'Made in the USA'"] , "Antiwar.com", August 20, 2001
* [http://www.alb-net.com/amcc/articles.htm Chronology of the war]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD1V59N3K5c Youtube video of an ethnic standof in Tetovo] "CTV"
* [http://www.marxists.de/balkans/garganas/macedonia.htm Battles -9/2001]
* [http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/mar2001/mac-m10.shtml Battles - 3/2001]
* [http://www.antiwar.com/orig/deliso41.html Macedonia On War Footing Over Kosovo Border Provocations]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1650954.stm November Battles, Start of War, January 2 2001]
* [http://archives.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/04/04/macedonia.clash/index.html 2002 attacks]
* [http://www.antiwar.com/orig/deliso25.html Boskovki interview]
* [http://www.economist.com/research/backgrounders/displaystory.cfm?story_id=541782 War in the Balkans, again?]

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