KUMANOVO, Macedonia (AP) — An armed group battling Macedonian police over the weekend aimed to destabilize the country by attacking state buildings and public areas, the prime minister said Sunday. The attacks left at least 22 people dead, a top official said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski, who gave the death toll, called the attackers in the northern town of Kumanovo “terrorists.” He said police were still searching for other bodies but did not believe anyone from the armed group was still at large.
The 40 plus-strong group was targeting state institutions, sports events and shopping malls and was made up of well-trained fighters who had participated in attacks in the region and the Middle East, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told reporters in the capital of Skopje.
“One of the aims of the group, at least, was to destabilize Macedonia,” Gruevski added.
The fighting comes as Macedonia is grappling with its deepest political crisis since its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. The government and the opposition have accused each other of planning to destabilize the country to take or preserve power, and some analysts fear leaders on both sides are ready to provoke ethnic clashes.