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Police Shooting in Kondovo Scrutinized, Exploited

March 3, 2006


( Research Service)- Yesterday’s police shootout in Kondovo, which left one Albanian dead, another wounded, and a third incarcerated has brought the restive village back into the news, with even Reuters venturing a vague and somewhat misleading piece. The inevitable politicization of the event has already begun, and the new unrest in Kondovo may well become a campaign issue for Albanian opposition parties looking to unseat the ruling DUI of Ali Ahmeti.

According to Makfax citing Macedonian media, “police said the operation aimed to arrest a three-member gang following a [piece of] information on [the] gang’s whereabouts. The mobsters resisted the arrest and opened fire on police officers.”

The dead man was identified as 27 year-old Enver Xhaferi who, according to A1 TV, was an outlaw wanted on 192 various charges.A second man, 24 year-old Fatmir Luri was injured, and Sokol Bejta, 34 years old and a citizen of the Republic of Albania, surrendered voluntarily.

The police claimed that at the moment of the shooting Xhaferi had been wielding a grenade and threatening to shoot police.

After the negotiations that restored peace to Kondovo following last summer’s armed standoff between loyalists of Agim Krasniqi and the state, ethnically-mixed police were returned to the village. However, following Thursday’s raid, angry Kondovo villagers again sealed off access, not even allowing journalists to enter.

However, Albanian journalists from Kosovo managed to get in and by Friday they had spread rumors that the suspects were shot in their sleep, not while trying to resist, unhelpfully providing a new opportunity for beloved conspiracy theories.

Reuters reported that according to a “senior police official,” the two Albanians were shot “in an overnight exchange of fire as police tried to detain them.” According to the official, “they didn’t obey orders to lay down their weapons.”

Maxfax added that the dead man, Enver Xhaferi, had been the subject of 4 prior police warrants and “is suspected of perpetrating the bomb attack in Skopje last October. The attack left two police officers dead.”

As for the other two, the now hospitalized Luri escaped from prison in 2005 halfway through an eight-year sentence. Police blamed him for participating in the subsequent Wild West summer showdown, “when the village was declared a no-go zone for the police.” For his part, Sokol Bejta “was on the run amid charges of criminal acts in Tetovo and Skopje areas.”

Interestingly enough, the police action occurred only a day after an unprecedented televised debate between DUI’s Ali Ahmeti and DPA’s Arben Xhaferi. Unofficial reactions from Albanians indicate that most believed Ahmeti was the clear winner.

Xhaferi, whose subtle presence was detected in the prior Kondovo standoffs, immediately latched on to the shooting as evidence of alleged intolerance and injustice against the Albanian people in general – and darkly insinuated that it would have ramifications for the security of the state.

“I see no justification for undertaking such provocative ventures, which will cost dearly Macedonia,” said DPA’s President Arben Xhaferi, according to Makfax.

The DPA leadership called on the Interior Minister, Ljubomir Mihajlovski, to resign over the incident. Xhaferi complained that “even the criminals have a right for civilized treatment by the police.” Party spokesman Veton Ibraimi proclaimed that “such actions trigger citizens’ hatred toward the system, deepening of the inter-ethnic hostility and distancing Macedonia from the European integration.”

Whether or not such “hatred’ will manifest on a national level, it did seem clear from the local reaction in Kondovo that this incident could become the catalyst for larger disruptions as the campaign for parliamentary elections gets underway. One Albanian man with close ties to the village stated that “yes, these were criminals, and not good for the Albanian people [in general]. But with this action the interior ministry has now lost all the trust with the locals built since the summer.”

The question has arisen as to whether they were part of the “Krasniqi gang” that twice in nine months brought the village into a direct stand-off with the state, as the young DPA leader repeatedly threatened to bombard Skopje. Macedonian national television MTV recently reported that the 25 year-old was fancying a run for parliament this spring- as an independent. However, he is currently in court answering to charges over last year’s mini-uprising.

While calm has for now returned to Kondovo, it seems likely that our most recent prediction is already being fulfilled; despite the stated higher intentions of Albanian party leaders, the “Wild West” approach to politics should return as campaign season kicks into high gear. The fallout of the police action, including politicking and rumor-monging, has created the sort of atmosphere where a relatively minor and unrelated event can trigger a larger incident.

At the very least, the Albanian opposition will no doubt continue to push on the issue, as tales of police violence traditionally play strong with the masses and DUI’s direct connection with and responsibility for official state structures could be used against them.

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