People are evacuated with an armoured vehicle near a police checkpoint in Kumanovo, Macedonia May 9, 2015. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

Gunfire, explosions in Macedonia as police battle ‘armed group’

KUMANOVO, Macedonia (Reuters) – Five police officers died and dozens were wounded in a daylong gun battle in an ethnic Albanian suburb of northern Macedonia on Saturday, adding the threat of armed conflict to a deep political crisis rocking the ex-Yugoslav republic.

The Balkan country’s interior ministry said an unspecified number of gunmen were also killed, but that it had no information on civilian casualties during clashes that began before dawn and stretched into the evening.

Police said that acting on information about an “armed group” they had launched an operation in an ethnic Albanian district of the northern town of Kumanovo 40 km (25 miles) north of the capital Skopje. The region saw heavy fighting during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001.

Units of special police in armored vehicles locked down the neighborhood and helicopters circled overhead. A Reuters photographer reported hearing heavy automatic gunfire and loud explosions. Black smoke rose over the town and residents were seen leaving the area carrying belongings.

  • BillyHW

    Diversity is the strength of the Balkans.

    • Oh yea they can’t get enough of it.

    • Alain

      That also seems to be the opinion of our government, first Liberal and now Conservative, since the balkanisation of Canada continues full speed ahead.

  • Clausewitz

    Ethnic Albanians. I think there’s a certain ethnic consistency to that group. Whatever could that be?

    • chicagotrance

      You mean ”religious consistency” don’t you?

      • Clausewitz

        To most Albanians religiosity and there culture are intertwined.

        • winniec

          Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian who grew up in Skopje, northern Macedonia. Skopje was mostly Albanian at the time of her birth.

          • Clausewitz

            Earlier on Albania was very Catholic in nature. These days, not so much.

    • winniec

      Albanians are religiously diverse.

      • Clausewitz

        Not the ones who are raising this hell.

    • Baptists!

  • UCSPanther

    Let me guess: Jihad

    • Likely “Ethnic Albanians” typically means Muslim Albanians nowadays whenever trouble brews.

  • winniec

    Haven’t the Macedonians suffered enough? God save them.
    The ethnic mix of Macedonia has always been diverse. Macedonia only became part of Greece in 1912 with the invasion, conquest and forced partitioning of Macedonia by Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia…contrary to international law and treaties which Russia was too weak to enforce. There will be justice for the Macedonians…someday.

  • WalterBannon

    moderate Muslims just being moderate again