Border zone reinforced as 6 police die in Macedonia clashes

Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Saturday that the police were doing everything to preserve stability and security of citizens.

Source: B92, Tanjug
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His comments came after an armed terrorist group and the Macedonian police clashed throughout the day in Kumanovo, northern Macedonia, near the border with Serbia.

Additional troops of the Gendarmerie and the Anti-Terrorist Unit have been sent to the Ground Safety Zone, said Stefanovic at the Gendarmerie base in Ristovac, adding that the presence of the border police and all other necessary logistic police forces had been stepped up.

“We have to act responsibly in order to show all those who are thinking about possible terrorist attacks on Serbia that they will be stopped quickly and efficiently,” he said.

Stefanovic, who conferred with Macedonian Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska said earlier on Saturday that he firmly believes that Macedonia's police will successfully deal with the terrorist threats that its citizens are facing at the moment.

The Serbian government will follow the possible surge of refugees so as to react timely and offer shelter to these people, Stefanovic said.

Earlier in the day, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic scheduled an emergency session of the Security Service Coordination Bureau for Sunday over the developments in Macedonia, Tanjug was told at the prime minister's office.

According to reports earlier on Saturday, three policemen were shot dead and a number of others were injured as the Macedonian police clashed with the group of terrorists.

Five policemen dead

Macedonian Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska told a news conference late on Saturday that five police officers were killed in the fighting in Kumanovo and more than 30 wounded, while the number of civilians who died is still unknown. Another officer succumbed to his wounds overnight, the media reported on Sunday.

She told reporters last night that while the resistance of the majority of terrorists was broken around 18:00 CET, the operation "unfortunately, still continues."

Jankulovska added that some of the terrorists also died in the fighting, but that the police "does not know their exact number."

The minister said the group's goal was to attack state institutions, and said the fact they were offering resistance for 16 hours "shows how dangerous they were."

The Macedonian Interior Ministry said earlier in the day that officers in Kumanovo clashed with "an armed terrorist group that arrived from a neighboring country with an aim to attack government institutions."

The terrorists were located nearby Kumanovo and they entered Macedonia a few days ago, Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson of the ministry, told a news briefing.

Kotevski said that the terrorists are well prepared and heavily armed, adding that the police has come across fierce resistance, Macedonian media reported.

The police were attacked with bombs and snipers, he said.

The Macedonian media reported around 18:00 CET on Saturday that the police operation was over and that 27 terrorists had surrendered, but B92's reporter in Kumanovo said that after the shooting died down, the fighting once again flared up.

A little after 21:00 CET it was reported that the police operation was over as "the last group of terrorists that was offering resistance has been eliminated."

Tanjug is meanwhile reporting that "a great number of ethnic Albanians in a convoy of cars and 12 buses with the registry plates of Kumanovo, where armed clashes broke out on Saturday, are leaving Macedonia and entering Serbia through the Presevo border crossing."

Very few people are willing to speak to journalists, Tanjug's on-site reporter said, "but underline that they are fleeing from the clashes."

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