Macedonia Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska has confirmed that five police officers were killed and more than 30 were injured during heavy armed clashes with an unidentified armed group in Northern Macedonia on Saturday.
Jankulovska described the five killed police officers as “heroes who gave their lives today for the Republic of Macedonia.”
Clashes erupted after police officers conducted an early morning raid on the armed group who are believed to have entered Kumanovo from Kosovo and planned to attack local police stations.
Three weeks ago 40 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo demanded the creation of an Albanian state in Macedonia by partially gaining control of a police station located in the northern border of Macedonia.
Kumanovo is near the Macedonian capital city of Skopje, where a large Albanian community resides.
Kumanovo was the site of armed conflicts in May 2001 when the Albanian insurgency started.
Local residents were seen fleeing the area some being evacuated by police.
An unidentified ethnic Albanian man told Macedonian television “I thought it would never come to this again,” referring to the 2001 conflict.
After the conflict, the ethnic Albanian community separated themselves from the rest of society and established their own schools.
Ethnic Albanians in Macedonia consist of over 25 percent of the population and mainly live in a region which is close to the Albanian and Kosovan borders.