By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonian police told a parliamentary commission on Friday that they know the identities of the suspects behind a spate of violent, ethnic-related incidents on Skopje buses.
Police Minister Gordana Jankulovska told parliament’s Commission for Ethnic Relations on Friday that those behind a series of recent attacks on bus passengers would be rounded up and charged.
“As soon as the suspects are identified by their victims, we will be filing criminal charges against them,” Jankulovska said.
The Commission held an emergency session on Friday following a series of violent incidents in recent days.
The first, on Wednesday, saw a group of men storming a Skopje bus and injuring several young ethnic Albanians. This incident was followed by other violent attacks on buses in the following days.
The head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje, Ralf Breth, condemned the violence and said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
“I trust that the authorities will fully investigate these incidents and the perpetrators will be quickly apprehended and brought to justice. Violence can never be condoned, especially in a sensitive multiethnic environment,” ambassador Breth said.
Similar messages came from the European Union office in Skopje as well as from all main political factors in the country.
But incidents have continued. On Thursday, police confirmed that a 17-year-old boy was beaten up in the western, mainly ethnic Albanian town of Tetovo. That same evening, two men sustained heavy injuries from a beating in the Skopje suburb of Gjorce Petrov.
Ethnic relations have been troubled since a village carnival was held in January in western Macedonia at which participants wore masks mocking the Muslim faith.
On February 28 an off-duty Macedonian policeman shot dead two young ethnic Albanians in the western town of Gostivar. Protesting Albanians described the killings as ethnically motivated and accused the police of downplaying their significance.
In 2001 Macedonia suffered a short-lived armed conflict between the security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of the Ohrid Accord, which guaranteed greater rights to Albanians. Albanians make up about a quarter of country’s population of about 2.1 million.