Macedonia: First arrests in quintuple murder case

SKOPJE -- Police in Macedonia have 20 persons under arrest in connection to the lakeside murder of five men three weeks ago near the capital of Skopje.

A file photo of the scene of the murders (Tanjug)
A file photo of the scene of the murders (Tanjug)

The suspects under arrest - some of them believed to be the direct perpetrators of the massacre - are being described as "radical Islamists".

The arrest operation, dubbed Operation Monster, was launched this morning and being carried out by 600 police officers.

Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska said that the detained "radical Islamists" were Skopje residents, and were now facing terrorism charges.

More details are expected to be revealed during the day.

Reports also said this Tuesday that "according to initial information", the motive for the killings was "to create fear among the population".

The victims - four young men who were fishing at the lake, and a local man who is believed to have stumbled upon the scene - did not know their killers, it has been reported.

The five Macedonians were killed execution-style from three different weapons, the police said last month. The murders sparked tensions between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians.

According to local media, some of the suspects arrested today previously "took part in the fighting against NATO troops in Pakistan and Afghanistan".