By Sinisa Jakov-Marusic
Police Minister Gordana Jankulovska said on Wednesday that the authorities have charged five men for the brutal murders on the outskirts of Skopje, three of whom have been arrested.
The three men, all ethnic Albanians, were seized during yesterday’s police raids.
“Two of them are at large” and are believed to have fled to neighbouring Kosovo, the minister said.
Police believe that three of the men carried out the killings and two helped them escape from the crime scene.
Not revealing the identity and ethnicity of the alleged murderers, Jankulovska only said that two were brothers from Skopje aged 32 and 33 and one other was 27. Local media reported that the suspects are Alil Demiri, Afrim and Agim Ismailovic.
The European Union delegation to Macedonia on Wednesday urged the authorities to bring the killers to justice “regardless of the ethnic or religious background of the victims and perpetrators”.
The bodies of Filip Slavkovski, Aleksandar Nakjevski, Cvetanco Acevski and Kire Trickovski, all aged between 18 and 20, were discovered on April 12 near Zelezarsko Ezero on the northern outskirts of the capital, a popular fishing destination.
The bodies had been lined up and appeared to have been executed with firearms.
The body of 45-year-old Borce Stevkovski was a short distance away from the rest.
The news of the killings raised tensions in the ethnically divided country after rumours spread that the killers were ethnic Albanians.
On Tuesday police rounded up 20 allegedly radical Muslims in an operation in several villages around the capital. During the raids they seized firearms and other weapons, some of which they believe were used in the murder.
Those not directly implicated in the Skopje killings will now face lighter charges for illegal possession of weapons.
Macedonia’s head prosecutor, Ljupco Svrgovski, said his office will demand the severest penalties for the murder suspects. “When it comes to such grave crimes the law prescribes life in prison,” Svrgovski said.
All main political parties have expressed support for moves to solve the case.
The country’s junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, said that ethnic Albanians should not be collectively blamed for the murders.