Saturday, May 01, 2004

What would you do to be America's ally?

Macedonia admits staging raid, killing innocents
Saturday, May 1, 2004 Posted: 0014 GMT (0814 HKT)

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) -- Macedonian police gunned down seven innocent immigrants, then claimed they were terrorists, in a killing staged to show they were participating in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, authorities said Friday.

Police spokeswoman Mirjana Konteska told reporters that six people, including three former police commanders, two special police officers and a businessman, have been charged by police with murder.

If convicted, they could be sentenced from 10 years to life in prison.

"That was an act of a sick mind," Konteska said after a two-year investigation. "They ... ordered the brutal murder of the seven Pakistani men."

She described a meticulous plan to promote Macedonia as a player in the fight against global terrorism that involved smuggling the Pakistanis into Macedonia from Bulgaria, housing them, and then coldly gunning them down.

The killings, she added, were part of an attempt to "present themselves as participants in the war against terrorism and demonstrate Macedonia's commitment to the war on terror."

Since breaking away from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia has been eager to win U.S. political and economic support in its search for acceptance into the Western camp of nations.

Macedonia has been a close U.S. ally in the Balkans. It has staunchly supported the U.S.-led war on terrorism and sent troops to Iraq.

The so-called "Rastanski Lozja" action was carried out in March 2002 by special Macedonian police who claimed to have eliminated a terrorist group allegedly plotting to attack international embassies and representatives in Macedonia.

Konteska said that the seven Pakistani men were in fact illegal immigrants who were lured into Macedonia by promises that they would be transferred to Western Europe.

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