Macedonia charges 30 suspects in day-long shootout

Macedonian authorities say 30 people captured in a northern town after a deadly, day-long gunbattle that left 22 police and gunmen dead have been charged with terror-related offenses.

A court in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, on Monday identified the suspects as 18 residents of neighboring ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo, as well as 11 Macedonians and one Albanian.  All 30 were ordered jailed for 30 days – a time frame that can then be renewed until the suspects go on trial.

Saturday’s fighting, described as the worst since a 2001 ethnic Albanian uprising, left 37 other police wounded in Kumanovo, an ethnic Albanian town located near the borders of Kosovo and Serbia.

Ethnic Albanians make up about 25 percent of Macedonia’s 2.1 million population.

The Macedonian newspaper Skopje Lajm carried a statement late Saturday from a group claiming responsibility for the attack.  The so-called National Liberation Army linked the attack to police and army forces that it accused of “terrorizing civilians for days.”

Authorities in Skopje have not confirmed that claim.

Kosovo’s President Atifete Jahjaga and Prime Minister Isa Mustafa have jointly issued a statement condemning any involvement of their citizens.  They called the attack an attempt to destabilize Kosovo and the surrounding regions.

Albanian authorities have called for the protection of Kumanovo’s ethnic Albanian population.