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November 15, 1993
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 112

Media Decoy

by Political panic sweeps over Macedonia after arrest of seven Albanians

After a several month lull and period during which the eyes of the Macedonian public were focused on Athens and the disagreement with neighbouring Greece over Macedonia's name, a turmoil has swept over the internal political stage in the past few days. It was caused by the arrest of seven ethnic Albanians (the other three are still at large), suspected of two crimes``rallying with the aim of engaging in hostile activities'' and ``disturbing the constitutional order.'' Translated into ordinary English, from November 58 the Macedonian police put behind bars a group which had, since 1991, been creating armed formations, purchasing and smuggling arms, explosives, ammunition and other military equipment into the country.

This is the essence of the Macedonian Interior Ministry statement, which failed to calm down the Macedonian public, particularly citizens of Macedonian nationality. For two days the mass media released unofficial reports that the police had uncovered a large, well organised group of ethnic Albanians which was trying to create an Albanian paraarmy in western Macedonia and that the police had, among other things, confiscated 300 automatic rifles and found recruitment lists with the names of 20,000 ethnic Albanians. Citing their own sources, the Macedonian media also reported that two of the arrested men were senior government officials and mentioned the names of Deputy Defence Minister Husein Haskaj and Deputy Health Minister Imer Imeri. Parties, members of the socalled Macedonian national block which is headed by the The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Movement Democratic Movement for Macedonia's Independence (VMRODPMNE), welcomed the reports and immediately praised ``the police and the Interior Ministry for exceptional professionalism in protecting the state'' and literally pounced on the Party of Democratic Prosperity, a party which represents a significant link in the current coalition government and is said to be directly involved in the ``conspiracy against the state.''

Albanophobia literally erupted in the two days before the Interior Ministry statement and the government press conference, held by the Macedonian Interior Minister Ljubomir Frckovski on this occasion. Even Frckovski didn't manage to calm the public by claiming that the media had added a zero to the number of confiscated guns, that 32 rifles and some ``minor military arsenal'' were in question, and that most of the suspects would be behind bars once the three men at large had been caught. Frckovski also said that the police had been following the group for two years and that their information did not indicate the group was in any way linked to any party.

Frckovski's explanation was immediately interpreted ``as an attempt to minimise the case'' and ``reduce it to ordinary black marketeering'' in order to ``rescue the coalition government,'' whose member is also ``the compromised Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP).'' The PDP has for some time refrained from commenting the accusations, tersely explaining that ``information concerning the case is still being gathered.'' Analysts are now left with the task of disentangling the case and answering the question which caused the media uproar, which, judging by police reports, ended ingloriously.

A logical question arises in that context who leaked false information to the journalists and is it really false? The Macedonian national block adheres to the hypothesis that someone in the Macedonian Interior Ministry decoyed the journalists, and then calmly and effectively tried to lure them away from some recent statements by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic regarding Macedonia, its disagreement with Greece and the danger of secession by its western parts. Since Milosevic's statement had been released by the Macedonian media the day before the news of the arrest, the Macedonian public gained the impression that Milosevic was in possession of relevant information and that the latest discovery of the Macedonian police confirmed these facts. Is it a coincidence that similar facts were voiced by Bulgarian and Greek sources only a couple of days before?

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