Macedonia: Killers used three different weapons

The five Macedonian men murdered late on Thursday were shot at point blank from three different weapons, the investigation thus far has revealed.

Source: B92, Tanjug
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Macedonian Minister of Internal Affairs Gordana Jankulovska called a news conference in Skopje on Saturday to say that bullet casings found at the scene of the crime led to this conclusion.

But the identity of the killers has not yet been determined, she noted, and appealed for restraint and "an end to speculations about the ethnicity of the perpetrators".

The coldblooded killing of five Macedonians led to a new deterioration of relations with ethnic Albanians.

During the news conference, Jankulovska also sent a message to the killers that they "will not escape justice", and pleaded on the citizens "not to use Easter gatherings to escalate unrest".

Meanwhile, the victims were on Saturday laid to rest in their respective communities.

In Radishani and Butel, four young men aged between 18 and 20 were buried, with funeral processions attended by a large number of people. The four have been identified as Aleksandar Nakevski, Filip Slavkovski, Cvetancho Acevski and Kiro Trichkovski.

In the village of Creshevo - where the lakeside murders took place - 45-year-old Borche Stefkovski, a father of two, was also laid to rest.

It was calm today in Radishani, where, in order to enable for mourners to attend the funerals, locals removed barricades previously put up on local roads.

Photographs of the victims were placed at the entrance to the suburb.

Tense but calm

Earlier on Saturday, reports said that the situation was tense but calm.

Protesting in the wake of the massacre, the citizens put up barricades, demanding for the perpetrators to be urgently apprehended.

The police were also out in force in the area.

The Macedonian Interior Ministry in the meantime confirmed officially that the bodies of the victims were found on Thursday, around 22:30 CET by local fishermen, near an artificial lake close to the village of Smiljkovci.

Bullet casings and blood were found at the scene, but the murder weapon was not recovered, it was announced.

Four young men were found dead with gunshot wounds near a dirt road, while another man was found some 100 meters away.

Unofficial reports on Friday suggested that they were murdered "one by one", execution style.

The victims were identified as ethnic Macedonians - four of whom were about to graduate from high school, and a 45-year-old villager who is believed to have been killed after he accidentally passed by.

B92's reporter in Skopje, Darko Cherkovski, said that until forensic analyses were complete, "it remains unclear who killed them". There are appeals for restraint coming from all sides, in a bid to prevent a flare-up that would damage the already fragile relations between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, especially as there is speculation that the killers were Albanians.

The media also speculates that the five men were murdered "in revenge after the murder several months ago of two Albanians in Gostivar, who were killed by a police officer over a parking dispute", said Cherkovski.

Some websites reported that the motive might have been the Gostivar incident when a police officer shot and killed two ethnic Albanians after he was assaulted. The officer was taking his under-aged daughter home at the time of the deadly incident.

Meanwhile in Skopje, the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia and the leader of the ruling ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integrations (DUI) held a meeting. The party said in a statement that they agreed that a detailed investigation was needed, while the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

The U.S. embassy also called on all sides to show restraint until the investigation had been completed and to avoid speculation and baseless accusations.

Interior Minster Gordana Jankulovski called on the citizens to remain calm, and said the police were doing all they could to shed more light on the case, "when five persons, most likely for no reason, lost their lives".

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