The insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia was an armed conflict which began when the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) militant group began attacking the security forces of the Republic of Macedonia at the beginning of February 2001, and ended with the Ohrid Agreement. The goal of the NLA was to give greater rights and autonomy to the country's Albanian minority, who make up 25.2% of the population. There were also claims that the group ultimately wished to see Albanian-majority areas secede from the country, though high-ranking NLA members have denied this. The conflict lasted throughout most of the year, although overall casualties remained limited to several dozen for either side, according to the sources from both of the sides in the conflict. With it, war in Yugoslavia has reached otherwise peaceful Macedonia.
When it declared its independence on 8 September 1991, Macedonia was the only ex-Yugoslav republic that managed to secede non-violently from the federation. Because of this, Macedonia was considered one of the bright spots in the former-Yugoslavia.
Although Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia as one of the poorest republics, socio-economic interventions done by the consecutive democratically elected governments managed to improve the economic picture in the country. According to the International Crisis Group, there was nearly 3% growth in 1999. The second half of 2000 also saw steady growth, leading to a 5% GDP increase for the year. In January 2001, the government projected a budget surplus for the second year in a row. In 2000 the country's emerging middle class began buying new cars, adding extensions to apartments and planning summer vacations abroad.
Although the ethnic Macedonian majority and the largest minority, the ethnic Albanians, have co-existed uneasily both before and after the country declared independence in 1991, their relations have generally been peaceful. All of the successive Macedonian governments have included Albanian parties as coalition partners, and all problems were resolved through political dialogue. The mood was more or less optimistic until the beginning of 2001. The main cause for incidents though, was the repression by the Macedonian governments on the use of the Albanian language in Macedonia and the ban of the use of the Albanian flag, as in 1997 the Constitutional Court forbade the use of Albanian flag, sparking protests.
According to the 1994 census, there were 442,914 Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia, making up for about 22.9% of the total population of the country (1,936,877). This makes them the largest ethnic minority alongside the majority Macedonian population of 1,288,330 (66.5%). The Albanians in Macedonia live in compact settlements in the western part of Macedonia, towards the border with Albania. They also live in the north-western part, towards the border with Serbia and Kosovo, as well as in Skopje and Kumanovo. They comprised the majority of the population in the towns of Tetovo, Gostivar, and Debar.
Since independence, the Republic of Macedonia had been trying to focus on its internal affairs. The promotion of democracy and harmonised inter-ethnic relations had been defined as the main goal of the new state. Since the first democratic elections in 1991, the Albanians in Macedonia used all constitutional and political opportunities to play a significant political role in the country. There were several Albanian political parties, whose behaviour and rhetoric (just as in the case with the parties of the Macedonian political block) depended on whether they were in the governing coalition or not. Despite these political fluctuations, the Albanian parties were included as coalition partners in all post-communist Macedonian governments.
Members of the Albanian ethnic group, as well as members of the other nationalities living in Macedonia, enjoyed a high degree of human rights and protection of their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity. The latter was manifested through state-funded television programs that were broadcast in the Albanian language. Also, there were Albanian newspapers; primary and high-school education was in the Albanian language; Albanian folklore festivals were organized, etc. Albanians also had representatives in the institutions of the system.
Regardless of the existing socio-economic and political status, the Albanians in Macedonia as a whole began to demand greater political rights such as making amendments to the constitution in order to declare the Albanians as a second titular nation of the country, recognizing Albanian as a second official language and providing state support for the underground Albanian-language university in Tetovo. Albanians also claimed to represent as much as 30% and even 40% of the country's population, not the 22.9% recorded in the official June 1994 census.
In contrast, Macedonians asserted that the Albanian minority enjoyed sufficient rights, comparable to or better than other minority communities in Europe. The Macedonians also remained suspicious of Albanian demands for autonomy, which they feared could lead to eventual secession or partition and unification with Albania or Kosovo.
In 1994, some of the Albanian politicians in Macedonia radicalized their demands for collective political rights. The most extreme manifestation of these radical demands was the declaration in 1994 of an autonomous republic called "Illiryda" in the western part of Macedonia. Other pressing issues were the beginning of operation of the illegal university in the Albanian language in Tetovo in 1995, as well as the anti-constitutional raising of the Albanian flag in front of the municipal assemblies in Gostivar and Tetovo in 1997. The declaration of "Iliryda" as well as the raising of the Albanian national flag in front of Macedonian state institutions in Tetovo and Gostivar were considered by Macedonians as steps towards the creation of "parallel authorities" of the Albanians in Macedonia.
During the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, Macedonia opened its borders to thousands of Kosovo Albanian refugees who were fleeing into the country. According to figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on 17 May there were 229,300 Kosovo Albanian refugees in Macedonia. The number of Albanian refugees in Macedonia at that stage was more than 11% of the country's population. According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees, around 360,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees remained in Macedonia after June 1999, equal to 18% of the population of the country.
Macedonia's ability to receive refugees was limited, because contingency planning assumed only 20,000 refugees. Despite all the difficulties, Macedonia accepted refugees according to international standards until the end of the war.
The burden of having to address the needs of 360,000 refugees took its toll on Macedonia's economy. Instead of experiencing modest growth as projected for 1999, the Macedonian economy shrank by as much as 10% of the GDP for the rest of 1999. Trade with FR Yugoslavia, Macedonia's main trading partner, had collapsed, causing Macedonia to lose one of its most important export markets and a vital source of raw materials. Consequently, a number of factories had to close down, adding to the already high unemployment. At the same time, the main transit route for Macedonian exports to most of Europe had been closed, increasing the costs for exports. State coffers, almost empty before the outbreak of the crisis, were now practically exhausted.
Macedonians were worried about the impact that more than 360,000 Albanian refugees might have on Macedonia's own ethnic mix. They were afraid that the refugees' presence could disturb the Republic's demographic balance. Macedonians were worried about the possible destructive spill-over effects that could result from the newest phase of the Kosovo conflict and also feared that they had the most to lose. As a Chicago Tribune journalist stated in March 1999, "People are afraid that after Kosovo comes Macedonia."
At the same time, insurgents from the Kosovo Liberation Army began crossing the border and entrenching themselves in Albanian-populated municipalities of the Republic. Macedonian authorities frequently intercepted and seized weapons deliveries en route to Kosovo.
In the prelude to the conflict in late 2000, groups of armed Albanians started opening fire on Macedonian police and security forces located on the border with FR Yugoslavia. These events appeared to catch the Macedonian government and International Community by surprise. The first attacks occurred in the small village of Tanuševci located in northern Macedonia, near the border with Kosovo.
"The Tetovo incident is part of an orchestrated action against the government and a very crude attempt to overthrow it. Regardless of who is behind it, as a political party we deeply condemn this act. This is a deeply anti-Macedonian act, but also an act against the interests of the Albanians in Macedonia".
In the same month, a group calling itself the National Liberation Army (NLA) claimed responsibility for the attacks against the police. Initial reports gave conflicting information about the NLA. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski claimed that the rebels were primarily Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) members who had infiltrated the country from Kosovo. Macedonian officials accused NATO of not doing enough to disarm the Albanian insurgents, discouraging their encampment in the buffer zone (Ground Safety Zone) area between Kosovo and Serbia, or preventing their entry into Macedonia.
The NLA claimed that the rebel force comprised several thousand men, coming mainly from Macedonia.
After one month long clashes, by late February, the Macedonian special police units neutralized the positions of the NLA in Tearce and Tanuševci, temporarily driving them across the border into Kosovo.
In the middle of March, NLA forces reappeared in the hills above Tetovo, a key northwest Macedonian town with an ethnic Albanian majority. The insurgents fired down on Macedonian positions using rifles, machine guns and mortars. At that point the NLA controlled at least seven villages to the north and west of Tetovo, all of which were up in the mountains and easily defensible.
Tensions soared further in Tetovo, when on 22 March 2001 two Albanian men, a father and a son, were shot dead during a routine search at a police checkpoint. The incident began when the car was stopped and a police officer saw the younger Albanian move something in his pocket, the officer claimed that it was a grenade, after which he ran and panicked. The Albanian dropped to his knees and threw the grenade in the direction of the running policeman. It landed at his feet but failed to explode. At the moment the grenade was thrown, a cordon of Macedonian troops, positioned behind sandbags, unleashed a volley of gunfire at the Albanian. At first he slumped against the car, then fell on the kerb, dead. Moments later the father was also shot as he tried to run from the car.
The NLA units' strategic position allowed them to have an overview of the town. The front line between the NLA and the Macedonian security forces expanded along the wooded hills adjacent to the city center to the north. The same day a front opened in Tetovo, the NLA took control of the medieval city fortress north of the city center, and started shooting at police stationed in the urban areas. After the initial clash, the Macedonian police pushed the NLA out of Tetovo and captured the medieval fortress. The NLA were pushed back into the surrounding hills, where several houses were reportedly burning. Medical officials said one person was killed and at least 14 injured, including 11 police officers.
The government issued an ultimatum asking the National Liberation Army to lay down their arms and leave the country, or face a full-scale offensive. The NLA rejected the ultimatum, announced a unilateral ceasefire, and called for political dialogue. In response, President Trajkovski claimed that the government first had to "neutralize the terrorist threat", but agreed to start a political dialogue with legitimate Albanian political parties in Macedonia.
Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski declared in a televised speech to the nation that he would not negotiate with "terrorists". He rebuked the United States and Germany, whose troops patrol the border from the Kosovo side as part of NATO's contingent there, for not doing enough to stop the rebels. Georgievski accused NATO of "creating a new Taliban in Europe" and allowing Albanian extremists to operate out of UN administered Kosovo.
After 5 days of guerrilla attacks against government forces in and around Tetovo, on 18 March 2001 the Macedonian government ordered a general mobilization of reservists in order to execute a wider counter-attack against the National Liberation Army's positions in the hills around Tetovo.
The offensive of the Macedonian security forces started on 25 March 2001. The offensive was launched towards the NLA's positions on the hillsides overlooking the city. More than 200 troops, aided by tanks and mortars, advanced about a kilometer up the hills fighting their way towards the village of Gajre while encountering fierce resistance from the rebels. By early afternoon the same day the village of Gajre was captured by the police. The police entered Šipkovica, but the NLA insurgents put up stiffer resistance at Lavce.
Macedonian government forces continued to move carefully to the north of Tetovo during the second day of the offensive (26 March 2001), consolidating their control of villages that were held by Albanian rebels for almost two weeks. After the Macedonian security forces' artillery and infantry assault, most of the NLA insurgents had abandoned their positions farther north into the mountains stretching toward Kosovo.
Two days after the NLA was driven out from the greater part of Tetovo, on 28 March 2001 Macedonian security forces launched a second offensive, this time directed at clearing the insurgents from their remaining strongholds stretching from east of Tetovo to the village of Tanuševci, north-west of Skopje. During the second offensive, the security forces attacked the NLA positions near the villages of Brest, Malino Malo, Gracani and Gosince, where clashes took place earlier in March before the later clashes took place around Tetovo.
The government said the guerrillas fled northwest towards Kosovo, which they "used as a rear base".
On 31 March 2001, the Macedonian government announced an end of its offensive against the NLA armed groups.
The Macedonian government claimed to have killed a dozen NLA guerrillas during the offensive. The rebels also claimed to have killed at least a dozen Macedonian border police, however this was denied by security officials. Hospital officials in Tetovo said 30 police officers and 10 civilians were wounded. One civilian, an Albanian man, was killed. NLA sources however, confirm that during the Tetovo offensive of the Macedonian army they have lost seven armed men.
The NLA's dislodging from the hills above Tetovo led to a month long lull in the conflict.
During the one month-long calm period, resulting from the offensive of the Macedonian security forces, the government launched roundtable discussions with Macedonian and Albanian political parties on legislative reforms. However this did not end the violence. On 28 April 2001, eight Macedonian police officers were killed in an NLA ambush, and their bodies were mutilated. Reports concluded that the attackers must have been informed by radio about the route of the police vehicle.
Macedonian sources disclosed that the ambush was executed by Ismail Shinasi (alias Komandant Hoxha), Ceka Ilaz (alias Komandant Qori) and Ceka Bilal (alias Komandant Brada) – all three of them and most of their people were born in Kosovo and were veteran members of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Ceka Bilal was a member of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency and was one of the main organizers for weapons smuggling in Kosovo.
In reference to the attack, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski stated:
"We are fighting terrorists, not rebels, and we have exercised the utmost restraint in tackling them".
The murder of the 8 Macedonian soldiers and police officers led to riots in Skopje, Bitola and Veles in which ethnic Macedonians attacked Albanian-owned businesses and shops. At least 10 Albanian shops in the city of Bitola were destroyed, and a dozens of buildings were damaged.
In order to suppress the riots, the Macedonian government imposed a curfew in Bitola, and Premier Georgievski announced that his cabinet considered declaring a state of war in order to have greater flexibility in fighting the NLA insurgents. According to the Macedonian Constitution a state of war would give enhanced powers to the President and the army, and allow for presidential rule by decree, fewer restraints on the army, the banning of demonstrations, a nation-wide curfew, and sealing the country's borders.
However during the entire conflict, the United States urged Macedonia not to declare a state of war in its fight against the NLA.
In the beginning of May 2001, a large group of NLA rebels infiltrated Macedonia from Kosovo and set up bases in several villages to the north of Kumanovo. This armed group of the NLA insurgents was known as the "113 Brigade of the NLA" and was led by the Kosovo Albanian Fadil Nimani.
On 3 May, the NLA launched another ambush on Macedonian security forces in Vaksince, near Kumanovo and killed two Macedonian soldiers and kidnapped a third. The three soldiers were on a border patrol which was returning from routine duty when it was ambushed near the village.
State radio said that the rebels had claimed the area around Vakcince as their "liberated zone".
On the same day, the Macedonian security council decided to engage in a new offensive against the NLA, in order to drive them out of their strongholds in the villages north of Kumanovo.
The people in the villages held by the NLA were given until 15:00 to evacuate before Macedonian security forces could launch their offensive. Army spokesman Gjordji Trendafilov told the Associated Press that the NLA were holding thousands of villagers as human shields. The offensive started with the shelling of selected targets in Vaksince by military helicopters and field artillery.
In the next several days, Macedonian security forces shelled NLA positions in the villages of Slupcane, Orizari and Otlja. Afterwards, Macedonian police and infantry units advanced. On 7 May 2001, Macedonian Army officials announced that in the previous three days the Macedonian security forces had managed to destroy 14 NLA entrenched positions, 8 machine-gun bunkers, 7 sniper nests, 6 control points, 3 arms storage facilities, and one mortar position. Army officials also stressed that during the operations only selected targets were being hit, in order to avoid civilian casualties and unnecessary material damage.
The most intensive clashes occurred during the first week of the offensive in Kumanovo on 8 May 2001 at the entrance to the village of Slupcane. Army infantry launched an onslaught, causing insurgents to leave their positions and retreat towards Vaksince. Army helicopters then intercepted them with machine-gun fire and inflicted heavy casualties. That same day, a position of 20 NLA insurgents was destroyed by the Macedonian Army in the "Mining colony" that was located close to Lojane.
On 25 May 2001, Macedonian security forces launched the long awaited general offensive against the NLA in Kumanovo.
The fighting that continued the next day turned into urban warfare, where the police and army infantry had to fight for every house in the large villages of Vaksince and Lojane. The NLA resisted fiercely. A special police unit called the "Tigers" who specialised in urban counter-guerrilla fighting were also deployed
After two weeks of heavy fighting, on 26 May 2001 the Macedonian security forces recaptured Vaksince and Lojane, two major Kumanovo villages which were NLA strongholds.
Macedonian troops continued their offensive towards the NLA strongholds of Slupcane and Matejce, both about 30 kilometres northeast of the capital Skopje.
After several clashes in which the NLA insurgents were defeated, on 29 May 2001 Macedonian police and army units entered the village of Matejce. While searching the houses, the police found weapons and military equipment. In the village the police discovered a system of underground tunnels which provide connection between several houses. After the Macedonian security forces captured Matejce, the NLA initiated a coordinated attack on the village from the directions of Otlja, Orizare and Slupcane. The insurgents were firing with machine-guns, automatic rifles, sniper rifles and rocket propelled grenades".
During the next two days, Macedonian security forces carried out an offensive towards Slupcane, which was shelled on a daily basis. In the meantime, there was news that there was renewed fighting in the villages north of Tetovo, more than a month after the Macedonian security forces crushed the rebels in an offensive in March 2001.
On 8 June 2001, the Macedonian Army and the police launched a new major onslaught against the NLA in their strongholds in the remaining villages that were occupied in the beginning of May 2001. The main goal of the operation was to secure the Lipkovo dam, which was held by the insurgents. The NLA closed the valves that are used for control of the outflow of water from the dam of the Lipkovo Lake, thus stopped the supply of water for Kumanovo causing a humanitarian crisis for the civilian population in the city. The Army captured the Lipkovo lake and pushed the NLA back into the village.
Unlike Vaksince, Matejce and other villages on the battleground, Lipkovo still had 10,000 people that were not evacuated by the government or the Red Cross. In order to prevent civilian casualties, government representatives ordered the civilians in Lipkovo to evacuate the village. However, the call was not answered since the NLA insurgents in the village did not allow the International Red Cross to evacuate the civilians. The Mayor of Lipkovo, Husamedin Halili, issued a call opposite to the government's – he said to the civilians that they would be safer in the basements of their houses than to come out of the village where they would find themselves in the cross-fire between the security forces and the NLA.
In order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophy in Lipkovo, because of the fact that the civilians did not flee the conflict zone, as well as in order to resume water supplies to Kumanovo, a temporary ceasefire was brokered by the OSCE and President Trajkovski ordered a halt to the offensive on 12 June. During the ceasefire, the supplies of drinking water for Kumanovo would be turned on again, and the civilians in Lipkovo would receive food, water and medicine by the OSCE.
The NLA abused the ceasefire that was announced by the Macedonian security forces and set fire to an historic orthodox church in Matejce, which was considered one of the most important cultural monuments in Kumanovo, as well as to houses of Macedonian civilians. Before the Macedonian police entered the village in June 2001, the church was used as a headquarters for the NLA.
The continuation of the Macedonian offensive in Kumanovo was temporarily stopped and put on standstill, because a new front was opened by the NLA which managed to pull the attention away from Kumanovo. On 13 June 2001, insurgents who had infiltrated previously, declared a "free territory" in Aračinovo, a village outside Skopje.
During the one month long battles in the Kumanovo region, the Macedonian security forces managed to recapture several villages that were NLA strongholds and clear them from the insurgents' presence. According to Macedonian official claims, security forces killed at least 30 NLA insurgents one of which was confirmed as "Komandant Tigri" killed during the battle for Vaksince, while the NLA claims they lost 16.
|This section may require copy-editing. (September 2013)|
The Aračinovo crisis is considered as the most controversial event in the Conflict[by whom?], because of the direct involvement of highest NATO officials, such as Javier Solana, George Robertson and Peter Feith, in the halting of the Macedonian security offensive and the evacuation of the NLA insurgents that were encircled in the village. The NATO intervention was the key turning point in the military crisis in Macedonia.
The temporary cease-fire that was brokered by OSCE, after news about ethnic Albanian civilian victims inflicted by government shelling NLA positions in the Lipkovo area, was violated by the NLA only hours after the agreement. Insurgents violated the cease-fire by shooting at a police vehicle, near Tetovo. Nine police officers were wounded, two of them seriously, during the exchange which lasted until dawn. The NLA have apologised for the attack, describing it as a "mistake".
The commander of the NLA forces in Aračinovo, Komandant Hoxha, warned that unless the army ceased its attacks the insurgents would target strategic positions in Skopje, like "the airport, oil refineries, police stations in towns and other government installations". Komandant Hoxha told journalists that his men have 120 mm mortars, and that:
"I will start attacking police stations and the airport, the government and parliament – everything I can with our 120mm mortars".
According to Hoxha, the insurgents' key demand was to be included in talks on the country's constitutional future – something explicitly ruled out by the government.
The seizure of Aračinovo triggered a further exodus of residents, many of whom have fled north to neighbouring Kosovo. The Macedonian Government did not respond officially to the NLA ultimatum, but reports say it had increased security around key facilities.
The Aračinovo crisis triggered an ever stronger diplomatic pressure on the Macedonian government from NATO and EU for a political resolution of the conflict. The attention that the Aračinovo crisis attracted was so great that even NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and the European Union security chief, Javier Solana visited Macedonia to bolster efforts for a political solution to the conflict. The crisis also widened the divide within the government on the matter of the approach towards the resolution of the conflict. The prime minister and the Ministry of Interior were in favour the continuation of the successful offensive from March and May 2001, whereas the President was pushing the way for a political solution.
During his meeting with Solana, President Traikovski promised to resolve the Aračinovo crisis with political dialog, however after several meetings of the "Coordinative body for the resolution of the crisis" as well as with the "Command for the defence of the City of Skopje", on 18 June it was decided to execute a military operation for the destruction of the NLA in Arainovo. The plan was prepared by General Pande Petrovski, and was to be conducted by both police infantry with the artillery and air support of the army. The representatives of NATO in Macedonia were not informed of the decision.
The operation of the Macedonian security forces began at 4:30 on 21 June with an artillery barrage by the army. The Macedonian army used some of its heaviest fire-power, with helicopter gunships being employed to attack targets in the village. At nightfall, the 6th detachment of the Ministry of Interior, as well as the Special Police unit "Tiger", began an assault from the direction of the neighbouring suburb of Singelich. The assault from Singelich was coordinated with an assault of a tank platoon from the direction of Brnjarci, thus cutting off Aračinovo from the north. The resistance from the northern side was crushed and the security forces entered Aračinovo up to the village graveyards. The insurgents retreated from their initial positions towards the centre the village, reinforcing their positions around the new mosque.
The onslaught on the eastern part of the NLA-held positions went more slowly because of stronger resistance, especially at Bel Kamen (one kilometre from Aračinovo). Only when reinforcements were sent to assist the assault from the southern side did Bel Kamen fall into the hands of the police. The insurgents retreated from Bel Kamen, leaving much of their equipment behind. Height 354 to the west of the village was also captured during the first day, opening the way for the security forces to enter the village. At the end of the first day of the operation, the Macedonian police managed to penetrate the village from the north and the west, whereas to the east and to the west the police temporarily dug in at the entrance of the village.
On the second day, Macedonian troops continued subjecting NLA-held Aračinovo to a heavy artillery barrage, in clear defiance of NATO and the European Union. The operations during the second day began with a reconnaissance flight of an army Suhoi Su-25. It was followed by an artillery, tank and helicopter bombardment of positions in the village. Army Mi-24 helicopters swooped in on the village, firing repeatedly at the area, from where the NLA threatened to shell the Macedonia's capital and its airport. The police, supported by mortar fire, broke into the village from the eastern side and advanced towards the centre. From the western side, the police advanced up to the new mosque, leaving only the wider centre of the village in NLA hands. A Macedonian army spokesman said the infantry had recaptured one third of the village as a part of a major offensive during the second day of the battle. The second day the insurgents gave fierce resistance, and the battle was fought for every house. The NLA resistance culminated during the third day of the Macedonian security forces' onslaught, when 3 members of the police lost their lives. The commander of the special police unit "Tiger" Stojance Angelov was heavily wounded during an attempt to penetrate the centre of the village. However, despite the casualties, the security forces continued the operation.
The Macedonian security forces resumed their assault on the ethnic Albanian insurgents for the third day, despite international pressure for a truce. Government spokesman announced that he was confident that the rebels would be defeated within four or five days. During the third day of the battle, the police controlled 2/3 of the village, and was attacking the village centre where severe resistance was mounted. In the advance towards the village centre the security forces bombarded every new NLA point with artillery and tanks, and only afterwards sent in the police. The tactics was to exhaust the insurgents, who, according to the intelligence sources, had only limited supplies.
From the start of the operation in Aračinovo, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson described the Macedonian assault on NLA held Aračinovo as "madness" and "complete folly". In a strongly-worded statement, Lord Robertson urged the government to cease hostilities as Macedonia, he warned, was "on the brink of bloody civil war". According to General Pande Petrovski, who was in charge of the operation, on 25 June at 9:00 in the morning he was called by the president and was told that NATO general secretary called him personally telling him to halt the operation because there are Americans trapped in Aračinovo. Petrovski however ordered the operation to continue. In 12:45 the president telephoned general Petrovski again with the words:
"General I want until 13:00 all of your activities in Aračinovo to be halted, and you will go to hotel "Belvi" to meet with NATO envoys. Don't you dare use the aviation, don't play games, I already explained what's the matter!" (page 110)
Petrovski orders the halting of military activities of the security forces and heads towards hotel "Belvi" where he encounters TV crews, foreign diplomats, government representatives and representatives of the president's cabinet. He is informed that everyone is awaiting the arrival of Xavier Solana at 16:00. In his memoirs on page 111 Petrovski then states that:
"Brigadier general Zvonko Stojanovski the commander of the Army Anti-air Defence informed me that our radars caught 6 fighter planes with course from Italy, through Albania towards Macedonia. i told him to follow their course and to dislocate the helicopters to the reserve airfield in Lozovo. I then though to myself – this is it! NATO is ready to use force on us if we continue with the operation". (page 111)
Petrovski's description of the circumstances was confirmed by Glenn Nye, who was a state department official in the Embassy of the USA in Macedonia. During the 2002 congressional elections in the USA, Nye revealed that while assigned to Macedonia and Kosovo, in 2001 he organised the rescue of 26 American citizens who were trapped behind insurgent lines. For this, Nye received the State Department's Superior Honor Award.
According to researchers Mark Curtis and Scott Taylor the foreigners that were evacuated from Aračinovo by NATO forces were advisors from the American military company MPRI.
During the meeting held the same day in hotel "Belvi", the EU's senior foreign policy official, Javier Solana put great pressure on the government to completely stop the military activities in Aračinovo, and to let the NLA insurgents leave the incircled village. After talks between president Boris Trajkovski and EU's senior foreign policy official, Javier Solana, the Macedonian government officially announced that it has ended its offensive against the NLA in Aračinovo. According to western media reports the talks were apparently "extremely acrimonious", with the Macedonians reluctant to abandon the battle they were convinced they were going to win.
Solana asked the Macedonian officials to allow the evacuation of the NLA insurgents from Aračinovo to Lipkovo, and that the evacuation be conducted the same day. During the evacuation the insurgents would carry with them their weapons, their dead and their wounded. Being exposed to great pressure by the international community, government officials allowed the NLA insurgents to be evacuated from Aračinovo to Lipkovo. The details with the logistics of the evacuation was organised by the USA special envoy for the Balkans, Peter Feith. The evacuation started at 17:00 and was conducted by U.S. Marines from the American contingent within KFOR in Kosovo.
The same night in front of the parliament building in Skopje, a spontaneous protest organised by ethnic-Macedonian refugees from Aračinovo escalated into a mass revolt after they were joined by members of the security forces and thousands of civilian protesters. The protesters were joined by the policemen from the Avtokomanda (a suburb in Skopje, close to Aračinovo) that took part in the battle. They came armed with guns and automatic rifles and were demanding an answer as to why the operations were halted and the insurgents allowed to be evacuated.
The protesters broke into the Parliament building and demanded to talk to the President shouting "Treason" and "Resignation", deriding Trajkovski's decision to allow the rebels to take their weapons as they retreated. The demonstrators broke through a cordon of police, hurled stones through windows and destroyed Trajkovski's Mercedes parked in front of the building. A few police and journalists were wounded in the melee, though none appeared to be seriously hurt. Police did not use force in attempting to calm the crowd.
After putting severe pressure on the Macedonian government, even threatening that Macedonia will be put under sanctions and that the Stabilisation and Association Process will be blocked for the country, the Macedonian government agreed to sign an unconditional ceasefire. The ceasefire agreement was given to the President by Peter Feith and was signed on 5 July 2001 by army general Pande Petrovski and police general Risto Galevski from the Macedonian side, and by Peter Feith as a representative from NATO. NATO was the guarantor of the General Ceasefire and a same agreement was then signed with the NLA in Prizren.
The General Ceasefire Agreement asks that a de-militarized zone was to be established extending between the border with Kosovo until the southern side of the Tetovo – Jazince highway. In accordance with the agreed the Macedonian army retreated from Tetovo and from all of the villages that were under its control in the conflict zone, towards new positions on the Kosovo border, and into the south of Tetovo. Some reinforcements were also sent to the army positions on Popova Shapka. After the dislocation of the army to the new positions south of the town, left inside Tetovo were only four police checkpoints and the police units located in the building of the SVR Tetovo. Police units were also dislocated from the villages of the conflict zone, and the police remained in the region around Tetovo after the signing of the Ceasefire were as follows: 20 policemen in Lesok, 70 in Tearce, 120 in Vratnica, 25 in Jazhince, 100 in Jegunovce, 50 in Ratae, 70 in Zelce, as well as 5 police checkpoints with 15 policemen each.
According to the ceasefire agreement, Macedonian security forces could open fire only when their lives were directly threatened and the return of fire had to be proportional with the attacks of the NLA.
The agreement also envisioned a 3,000 strong NATO contingent to be deployed in the conflict zone after a political settlement was agreed between the Macedonian and Albanian political leaders. The mandate of the NATO force was to last 45 days and the task was to disarm the NLA insurgents.
The General Ceasefire Agreement signed on 5 July 2001 was not respected by the NLA, who proceeded to constantly violate it. According to Macedonian army records, after the signing of the General Ceasefire until the end of August, the NLA executed 139 direct attacks against Macedonian security forces: 117 in Tetovo, 12 in Kumanovo and 10 in Skopje region. The Macedonian security forces returned fire 74 times: 60 times in Tetovo, 7 in Kumanovo and 7 times in Skopje region. There were 81 cases of the NLA kidnapping ethnic Macedonian civilians, with 61 of them being released.
After the signing of the ceasefire agreement and the dislocation of the army from the villages north of Tetovo, NATO gave guarantees to the civilians that had fled the area for Kosovo or were internally displaced, to return to their homes and subsequently ethnic Albanian civilians began to return to their homes in the Tetovo villages of Selce, Lavce, Gjermo, Sipkovica, Brodec, Vesala and Vejce. The return of the civilians and the dislocation of the army created favourable conditions for the NLA to reappear in these villages. Army observation positions spotted insurgents digging defensive positions around these villages, but the soldiers were not given permission to open fire.
The first bigger incident caused by the NLA was the artillery attack on Tetovo on 7 July 2001, only two days after the signing of the ceasefire, when NLA insurgents from their positions north of Tetovo began an artillery bombardment of the city. Mortar grenades were launched on the northern part of the city, towards the city stadium, and the central shopping mall "Tetovcanka". Then they continued firing on the police checkpoints in the city with RPG launchers and automatic weapon from the direction of the villages of Gjermo and Poroj. The Macedonian police stationed in the city answered the fire with all of their available weapons. In the same time there were attempts by the insurgents to bomb the police station in Tearce.
During the weekend the NLA entered the ethnic Macedonian villages of Brezno and Varvara and started digging in positions. Insurgents also started digging in above the big ethnic Macedonian village of Lesok. The Ministry of Interior recorded the movements and did not intervene, but alarmed the EU and OSCE monitors to take measures. The insurgents from their positions in Varvara opened automatic fire towards Lesok and on the police positions at Jazince. In these incidents the police did not react, in respect of the Ceasefire agreement. There were also sightings of the NLA establishing checkpoints on roads to the east of Tetovo.
On 9 July, it was announced in the media that when the insurgents first started shooting towards Lesok, a police unit came to the villagers and distributed them firearms and ammunition to defend themselves, because the police was not allowed to intervene. The armed villagers organised a village militia, positioned themselves and for two days repelled the NLA's attempts to enter the village. On the same day, organisations of Tetovo Macedonians went to see the President to demand that the army be ordered to enter Tetovo and expel the insurgents from the ethnic Macedonian villages of Setole, Otunje, Jadoarce, Brezno, Varvara and Jeloshnik so that civilians could be returned to their homes. They also added that the NLA attacked the remaining Macedonian villages in the region in order to ethnically cleanse the region from Macedonians. They also added that they thought that the General Ceasefire Agreement was "an unthought-of act which may, and already is, very harmful to the Macedonian population in the Tetovo region".
Towards the middle of July, the NLA entered the Tetovo suburb of Drenovec, which was already emptied from army and police presence. Armed citizens organized control points in the suburb and started building positions in close proximity to the police positions at the stadium. Because of the fact that the NLA used the Ceasefire to infiltrate in Tetovo and come in cloxe proximity to the security forces' positions, General Pande Petrovski issued an order allowing the security forces to open fire if the insurgents come to 200 meters from their positions.
On 21 July, Macedonian army radars detected a NATO Chinook helicopter entering Macedonian air space from Kosovo and dropping a container in the village of Shipkovica (which after 5 July fell into NLA hands). 15 minutes after the first drop-off, another NATO helicopter dropped another container in the area of the village of Brodec. After dropping the cargo, the helicopters returned towards Kosovo. Macedonian air defence did not open fire on the helicopters, but the Macedonian Ministry of Defence demanded an official answer from KFOR about the two incidents. NATO officials initially denied any involvement, but later confirmed that they dropped the containers but stated that the cargo was not designated for the NLA, but for the purposes of KFOR.
On 22 July, NLA insurgent positions in the villages north of Tetovo as well as from the Drenovec suburb, started a massive onslaught against the Macedonian police near the villages as well as inside Tetovo. The attack started at 11:00 with the attack on the police positions at the city stadium, Drenovec 2 and the army barracks on the outskirts of the city. The police answered the fire leading to the outburst of heavy fighting. The fighting continued uninterrupted for a second day when, the insurgents slowly penetrated towards the city stadium and Drenovec 2 suburb, approaching the city centre. The same day the Defence Minister warned the NLA to withdraw from ground it has taken during the truce or face an all-out attack.
On the third day, the NLA seized control of the soccer stadium and the fighting spread towards the army positions on the Kosovo border. This triggered the army to intervene. On 24 July the army started an attack on the NLA by shelling villages in the mountains above Tetovo, from which the rebels have advanced. Fighting also continued towards the Kosovo border. Army Suhoi fighter planes were also sent on a reconnaissance mission over NLA positions. On noon backed by army artillery, police units attacked NLA positions in Drenovec 2 and the Tetovo teqe, starting the most severe episodes of the clashes in Tetovo. In the attack the Macedonian police destroyed several insurgent positions in Drenovec 2, Strmno and Poroj, pushing the NLA away from the centre. During the battle for Drenovec 2 a police bullet heavily wounded the NLA commander that was in charge of the attack on Tetovo – the Kosovar Rahim Beqiri, also known as Komandant Roki. He was immediately transported to the Prishtina hospital, where he died one week later.
The battle ended the night on 24 July 2001 after a night of fighting. The next day Tetovo was quiet while ethnic Albanian insurgents were built up defences with sandbags, and across the graveyard Macedonian security forces were stationing armoured personnel carriers. After the battle there was a line dividing the city with the city stadium being the border. Although there were individual armed provocations until the end of 2001, the positions held by both sides inside the city of Tetovo after the battle of 24 July did not change. The biggest incident after the clashes from 24 July, happened on 7 August when the NLA made another attempt to take control of the city, but the attack failed when the special units of the police launched a counter-strike and suppressed the insurgents to their former positions.
During the July clashes in Tetovo, five members of the Macedonian security forces lost their lives. NLA sources confirm that they lost 17 insurgents during the battle – the biggest loss being the death of Komandant Roki.
Towards the end of July and the beginning of August NLA increased its presence in the demilitarised area around the Tetovo-Jazince highway, after ethnically cleansing 5 ethnic Macedonian villages located next to the highway. The Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister were putting pressure on the President to order a full-scale offensive of the army to liberate the territory which NLA occupied during the Ceasefire period after 5 July. This terriroty included most of the villages north of Tetovo, the Tetovo suburb of Drenovec as well as to area north of the Tetovo-Jazhince highway. The Prime Minister was ever more pushing for a state of war to be declared in order to give the army the necessary freedom to resolve the crisis by military means. General Pande Petrovski prepared the plan of the offensive named "Operation Polog", but President Trajkovski refused to sign it. According to Petrovski, Trajkovski was constantly being assured by NATO and US envoys that the NLA will peacefully retreat from the area once the political dialog with the Albanian political parties intensifies.
In the beginning of August 2001 Macedonian intelligence service received an information that a special unit of the NLA was infiltrated in Skopje, in the suburb of Cair. The 10 member group was led by the Albanian national Lefter Bicaj (known as Komandant Telli), and according to the intelligence info, the group had the task of organising terrorist attacks within the capitol. On 7 August the police discovered the hiding place of the group and conducted a raid in which 5 members of the NLA group were killed and other 5 arrested. In the apartment the police found great number of automatic rifles, handguns, mortars, explosive devises and grenade launchers.
The next day on the way to Tetovo a military convoy that was sending reinforcements to army positions around Tetovo, was attacked in an ambush set by the NLA insurgents. 10 Macedonian soldiers lost their lives in the attack. They were attacked on the Tetovo-Jazhince highway next to the Karpalak locality.
On 9 August 30 NLA terrorists kidnapped 5 civil workers who were busy doing construction work on the Tetovo-Jazhince highway. The people were brutally beaten and their skin was cut out with knives. When they were released all of them were taken to intensive care.
The same day the president allowed a joint military-police action aimed at liberating and securing the Tetovo-Jazhince area, which was demilitarised after the Ceasefire Agreement of 5 July. The operation started early on 10 August, and after several clashes with the insurgents, the Tetovo-Jazhince area was liberated from the presence of the NLA and security check-pints were established. The Tetovo-Skopje highway was also completely secured and the demining teams were cleaning the area from landmines while strong police presence was securing the road from diversions.
The battle at Raduša was the worse infraction of the General Ceasefire Agreement signed between the Republic of Macedonia and NATO (in the role of a guarantee for the NLA). The battle was a series of clashes between the Macedonian security forces and the NLA insurgents in the area around the village of Raduša, near the border with Kosovo. The first incidents began near the end of June and escalated in the middle of August 2001.
The first clash happened on 20 June 2001 when four policemen from the Raduša police station, during a terrain patrol of the border, discovered a NLA camp of 40 insurgents on the steps of Žeden mountain. The police patrol opened fire killing one insurgent and wounding another. The patrol called on air support which came immediately and suppressed the insurgents towards Kosovo.
On 23 July, one of the most dramatic single events in the conflict occurred when another police border patrol was attacked in an NLA ambush near Raduša. The police patrol was led by Aco Stojanovski, the deputy-commander of the Raduša police station. The insurgents fired at the police vehicle with RPG rockets, throwing three policemen out of the car and leaving one inside. The NLA attempted to approach the heavily wounded policemen, and only commander Stojanovski's firing of 6 rounds of AK-47 ammunition at the insurgents saved them until the soldiers from the Raduša border post arrived and suppressed the NLA with fire from an armed personal carrier. After the conflict, commander Stojanovski became the president of the Union of Army and Police veterans of the Conflict in Macedonia.
In the early hours of 10 August 2001, the NLA launched an offensive from the area of Krivenik in the Kosovo Municipality of Đeneral Janković (Hani i Elezit), invading the territory of Macedonia in the region of Raduša. The offensive took place during the Ceasefire period, only days before the signing of the Ohrid Framework agreement. The first actions began at 20:00 the same day with a mortar attack on the Raduša police station (located at the entrance into the village). The police station was manned by only 35 policemen. The security forces returned fire and the shootout lasted until 2:00 in the morning. Afterwards, the NLA initiated an infantry attack which was repelled by the police. In the attack one police officer was injured.
According to information obtained by the Macedonian intelligence service, the attack was conducted by more than 600 NLA insurgents supported by volunteers from the Kosovo Protection Corps, which during the night from the town of Krivenik in Kosovo crossed the Macedonian border into Raduša. According to the same information, the aim of the NLA plan of action was to neutralise the security forces in the Raduša sector and penetrate southwards – capturing the Rašče water spring which feeds the Macedonian capital Skopje with drinking water, thus creating a humanitarian danger to the city.
The Ministry of Interior single-handedly declared an alert condition and sent detachments of the "Tiger" special police unit to dig in and secure the Rašče spring. Other detachments of the "Tiger" were sent to rescue the encircled 35 policemen from the Raduša station, but because of the lack of artillery support and the overwhelming numbers of the NLA encirclement, they dug–in at positions outside Raduša. The Minister of Interior Ljube Boškoski and Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski asked President Trajkovski for an immediate activation of the army in order to neutralise the invasion from Kosovo. The president however, inspired by the NATO and EU envoys, was concentrated at reaching a political solution and the respect of the conditions of 5 July Ceasefire Agreement – and asked that the police does not fall on to provocations in order to avoid an escalation of the conflict. Meanwhile, the encircled policemen from the Raduša station were left on their own.
"Yesterday's and today's armed aggression from Kosovo by more than 600 members of the Kosovo Protection Corps against the territorial integrity of Macedonia, yesterday's siege of the village of Radusa and its bombardment by weapons stationed on the territory of Kosovo, for me personally, as a Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, are nothing else by an official declaration of war against my country by an international protectorate, Kosovo, i.e. the Kosovo Protection Corps, which – unfortunately – is part of your civilian administration of the United Nations in Kosovo".
On 11 August, the second day of the battle, the NLA began the most serious attack against the security forces in the Skopje region. A column of 200 Albanian insurgents attacked the Raduša army border post with mortar, automatic rifle and sniper fire. The Raduša army border post is located between the villages of Kučkovo and Raduša, and was manned by 25 soldiers with mortars, automatic rifles, one tank and three armoured personal carriers. At the same time the NLA conducted another assault attack on the encircled police station at the Raduša village. The army and police returned fire and during the heavy fighting the NLA managed to set fire on the petrol barrels within the barracks of the army border post, and the insurgents managed to come so close that they started cutting the wire-fence. The soldiers repelled all of the attacks on the army border post, and witnesses state that they could observe the insurgents carrying away the bodies of tens of dead and wounded. The policemen also managed to repel all of the attacks made on 11 August.
On the third day of the battles (12 August), the army, after being under great pressure by the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister, decided to intervene in the battle. The army involved itself by sending military helicopters followed by two efficient flights by Macedonian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25s. The air bombardment and the consequent approach of the army infantry and armed vehicles put an end to the advances by the NLA, and brought a turnaround on the battlefield. NLA insurgents withdrew to their trenches and earth bunkers at their initial positions around the village of Raduša or escaped to Kosovo. After breaking the encirclement, the army withdrew the 35 policemen with their equipment and repositioned them on a more strategic position at the abandoned buildings of the Raduša mine road towards Skopje. 170 policemen were added as a reinforcement to this new position. The army also reinforced the already established positions for the defence of the Rašče water springs.
Although during the first two days of the battle there was serious lack of coordination between the Macedonian military and police, the army was pressed to intervene and prevent the NLA to take control of the whole territory around Raduša. Thus, the NLA failed to connect territories under its control in the Tetovo and Lipkovo regions, which would create a single "liberated territory" in the north-west of Macedonia. On the other hand, the outcome of the battle further fuelled members of the Macedonian police force that were in favour of a military solution of the conflict. On 13 August Ljube Boskovski stated:
"At this moment it is necessary to initiate the largest offensive so far, due to the danger that terrorists will widen the conflict".
The Macedonian security forces had a dozen men wounded in the battle and sustained no fatalities. Although Macedonian sources state that there were tens, if not houndred of dead in the battle, Albanian sources do not give a precise number. However, at the place of the battle there is a memorial stating "To the fallen NLA soldiers of 2001".
On 10 August 2001, eight Macedonian soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion near the capital Skopje. The blast occurred on the road between the villages of Ljubanci and Ljuboten, five kilometres from the outskirts of Skopje, when a convoy of army trucks ran over three landmines. Another six soldiers were wounded in the explosion.
The next morning the police sent a patrol to search the village of Ljuboten, after receiving intelligence that a group of 3 NLA insurgents had moved into the village after having planted the mines on the road. When the police entered the village, three grenades from a 120mm mortar were shot at them from the northern part of the village. Then a detachment of the reservist "Lion" police unit was called as reinforcements backed by a police TM-170 armoured personnel carrier. According to police witnesses when the police entered the village, fire was opened on them with automatic rifles from four houses in the villages. The police called an army mortar battery not far away from the village for artillery fire to be directed towards four houses in the village. The army mortar unit fired 60 grenades (both 120mm and 80mm on the four targets designated by the special police in the village). According to CNN two helicopter gunships were also called to shell the village, whose hundreds of residents were hiding in basements.
When the shelling stopped, the police entered the village on 12 August. OSCE observers could hear gunfire and explosions coming from inside the village. Three people were killed by the police inside the village, and four were killed while trying to escape by snipers located in positions outside the village. Around 100 men from the village were arrested by the police and taken to the neighbouring village of Mirkovci, where they were subjected to the paraffin glove test (a test used to determine whether someone has recently shot a firearm.) 27 men tested positive and were detained and sentenced for terrorism, whereas the rest were released. Evidence later illustrated that the ones who were detained were subjected to severe beatings, as a result of which one person had to be hospitalised.
The Ljuboten police action is considered as one of the most controversial episodes of the 2001 conflict, and was among the four ICTY cases arising from the conflict.
The police action in Ljuboten coincided with the security forces' counter-offensive in Radusa, and was part of the Premier's and Minister of Interior's effort to resume the general offensive against the NLA which was stopped after 5 July 2001. However, the general offensive was not conducted because of the fact that on 13 August, one day after the Ljuboten action, the ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political official representatives in Macedonia signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement, putting an official end of the hostilities. Although the NLA was not included in the negotiations nor in the signing of the document, the NLA leaders agreed to disarm themselves to NATO troops.
The Ohrid Framework Agreement which was signed on 13 August 2001, put an official end of the armed conflict. The agreement set the groundwork for increasing the rights of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. The Agreement also included provisions for altering the official languages of the country, with any language spoken by over 20% of the population becoming co-official with the Macedonian language on municipal level. Currently only Albanian with an approximate 25% of the population fulfils this criterion. According to the document, the version in English language is the only authentic version of the Ohrid Framework Agreement.
The Agreement was preceded by the Ohrid discussions, a series of talks between Albanian and Macedonian representatives, along with representatives from the United States and European Union. The talks took place in Ohrid in the south-west of Macedonia. The agreement was negotiated by Zoran Jolevski, Secretary General of President Boris Trajkovski. The Macedonian side was represented by the VMRO-DPMNE and the SDSM, while the Albanian side was represented by the DPA and the PDP. Although actively participating in armed conflict, the National Liberation Army did not participate directly in the talks.
After the Ohrid Agreement, the rebels agreed to a ceasefire in June, however there were other agreements in August, before both sides settled on a final one in January 2002. Under the Ohrid Agreement, the Macedonian government pledged to improve the rights of the Albanians of the country. Those rights included making the Albanian language the second official language, increasing the participation of ethnic Albanians in government institutions, the police and the army. Most importantly, under the Ohrid Agreement, the Macedonian government agreed to a new model of decentralization.
The Albanian side agreed to give up any separatist demands and to fully recognize all Macedonian institutions. In addition, according to this agreement the NLA was to disarm and hand over their weapons to NATO.
Operation "Essential Harvest" was officially launched on 22 August and effectively started on 27 August. This 30-day mission involved approximately 3,500 NATO and Macedonian troops, whose mission was to disarm the NLA and to destroy their weapons. Just hours after NATO wrapped up the operation, Ali Ahmeti told reporters attending a news conference in the rebel stronghold of Šipkovica that he was dissolving the National Liberation Army and that it was time for ethnic reconciliation.
Several months after the end of the conflict, some armed provocations persisted. Small bombings and shootings occurred. The most serious provocations happened when three Macedonian police officers were killed in an ambush by ethnic Albanian gunmen on 12 November 2001.
Casualty figures remain uncertain. By 19 March 2001, the BBC reported that Macedonian security forces had claimed five of their soldiers were killed, while the NLA claimed that it had killed 11. No definitive Albanian casualty figures were cited at the time. On 25 December 2001, the Alternative Information Network cited figures of 63 deaths claimed by Macedonian security forces for their side and 64 deaths claimed by the NLA for their insurgents. About 60 ethnic Albanian civilians are thought to have been killed while possibly about ten ethnic Macedonians died during the conflict (Macedonian authorities did not release figures for the latter at the time). As of December 2005[update], the fate of 20 missing civilians —13 ethnic Macedonians, six ethnic Albanians and one Bulgarian citizen— remains unknown. By August 2001, the number of people displaced by the war reached 170,000, mostly Macedonians. Of these 170,000, 74,000 were displaced internally. As of January 2004[update], 2,600 people remain displaced. Two European Union monitors were killed during the conflict. One British soldier was also killed.
As a result of the conflict, some Albanians of the Čair Municipality in Skopje established in 2008 a 'Museum of Freedom' presenting what they consider the battles of the Albanians in the region from the period of the Prizren League in 1878 until the 2001 insurgency. It is also known as the NLA Museum and commemorates those who died during the conflict. Items include paramilitary clothing and insurgent flags used in 2001. Many Albanians see it as a non-military continuation of the uprising. Former NLA leader turned politician, Ali Ahmeti stated at the opening ceremony "My heart tells me that history is being born right here, in Skopje, the ancient city in the heart of Dardania. Our patriots have fought for it for centuries, but it is us today who have the destiny to celebrate the opening of the museum. Fighters from Kosovo are here to congratulate us ..."
In April 2010, a weapons caché was discovered near the border with Serbia, it included uniforms with Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) insignia. On 12 May, four militants were killed by the Macedonian police, in a village close to Kosovo. The police seized four bags of explosives, anti-infantry mines and other weapons. Those killed were wearing black uniforms and UÇK insignia was found in the vehicle. In the following days, as Macedonia petitioned Kosovo for any information that it might have possessed, 70 ethnic-Albanian criminals linked to the Albanian Mafia were arrested for illegal weapons possessions. Among the arrested were four men, a father and his three sons. They are believed to be linked to the men that were killed on 12 May.
Alleged war-crimes included the likes of a three-day operation by Macedonian police against the ethnic Albanian village of Ljuboten, from 10–12 August 2001, which left ten civilians dead and resulted in the arrest of more than 100 ethnic-Albanian men, many of whom were severely beaten and tortured while in police custody. According to the Macedonian government, there was an insurgent presence in the village; however, a Human Rights Watch investigation on the ground in Ljuboten found no direct evidence of this. These events led to the trial of the then-Macedonian Minister of Internal Affairs, Ljube Boškoski, in the International War Crime Tribunal in The Hague. He was acquitted in 2008, but his co-defendant Johan Tarculovski was found guilty; both verdicts were upheld in 2010.
The bombing of the 13th-century Orthodox monastery Sveti Atanasij in the village of Lesok is considered a war-crime by some. However, no one has ever claimed responsibility for the attack and Albanian guerrilla officials have dismissed all responsibility and placed the blame on Macedonian special forces saying it was another poor attempt to link the NLA to Islamic extremism. However, upon closer inspection, it was discovered that near the rubble that had once been one of the most revered religious sites for the Macedonian Orthodox Church, there lay a dead donkey, its bloated body daubed with red paint: spelling out the letters UÇK, the Albanian abbreviation for the rebel National Liberation Army. This incident is to this day disputed and the monastery is now under-going reconstruction. On the other hand, the Macedonian forces themselves destroyed a mosque in the village of Neprosteno. The mosque was rebuilt in 2003 with funding from the EU.
The monastery at Matejce, near Kumanovo, was also damaged in the fighting and the church of St. Virgin Hodegetria was vandalized by the Albanian insurgents who spray-painted and carved anti-Christian and Albanian-nationalist symbols into the church's 14th-century frescoes. Similar attacks were carried out against Serb churches and monasteries in Kosovo by ethnic-Albanians.
The Macedonian government also claimed the so-called Vejce massacre, in which Albanian insurgents ambushed and killed eight Macedonian soldiers, to be a war crime. According to these claims, soldiers captured by the insurgents were, executed, mutilated, and burned. The claims were not verified by international observers, and to this day, the bodies have not been released to the public or to civilian investigators and autopsies were carried out in a military morgue. But news of the deaths sparked local riots against ethnic-Albanians in several towns and cities across Macedonia, and such revolts included burning and vandalising shops and Mosques. 
1996 – Sporadic ethnic Albanian protests over curbs on Tetovo's Albanian-language university. 1997 – Constitutional court forbids use of Albanian flag, sparking protests. Parliament adopts law on restricted use of the Albanian flag.
|a.||^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 108 out of 193 United Nations member states.|