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In Kondovo, Mujahedin Claims Echo Old Fears

December 5, 2004

( Research Service)- Nikola Gruevski’s intervention into the debate over Kondovo on Friday echoed previous complaints made by his party in 1995, when they voiced fears over the opening of the village’s madrasah (Islamic school).

They also came at a time when local newspaper Vreme unveiled sensational claims that the US Embassy’s recent closure came about after a mujahedin plot connected with said village. The allegations from the scoop-friendly newspaper came on Friday. Vreme claimed that the reason for last week’s brief closure of the American Embassy, USAID and other offices was due to attempted infiltration by mujahedin from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The paper claims that the individuals concerned were attempting to bring large amounts of cash to the fighters in Kondovo, and tried to enter the country through Skopje Airport rather than Kosovo, as the latter option was deemed less likely to succeed.

According to the newspaper, the nefarious action was “…unearthed by Macedonian counterintelligence staffers, who had immediately notified the US embassy about the potential security threat.” According to this story, the mujahedin were “immediately deported” at the airport.

While an interesting story, it is important to note that we have not been able to confirm this allegation from other stories at time of publication.

According to Dr. Ramiz Zekaj’s The Development of Islamic Culture among Albanians in the 20th Century (Albanian Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization: Tirana, 2002), the Isa Bej madrasah was established in Kondovo to cope with overwhelming demand for Islamic education after Macedonia’s independence. “…For this reason, the group of engineers chose Kondova village in the suburb of Skopje in order to build the medrese’s complex, which included 3 grandiose constructions that are built in an area of 7,000 square meters.” (pp. 86-87).

The author adds that the school contains nine classrooms, a library, bookshop, prayer room, language laboratory, sports hall, etc., and includes foreign Islamic students among its ranks.

However, on 1 March 1995, the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, then led by Ljubco Georgievski, condemned the construction of the madrasah, calling it “…a substitute for the so-called university in Tetovo. It will support Islamic fundamentalism and will lead to a complete destabilization of Macedonia.”

In June 2002, George Soros’ Open Society Institute funded an attempt to foster a dialogue between the Kondovo Islamic center and a Skopje Orthodox church through art. Earlier this year, the long-debated Tetovo University was legalized.

Now, almost ten years after VMRO’s charge, its veracity is again being questioned.

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