Kosovo police raid houses of suspected militants

AP News
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Posted: May 15, 2015 9:51 AM

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo police raided several households across the country Friday, including the families of ethnic Albanians involved in last week's deadly clashes with police in neighboring Macedonia.

Police spokesman Baki Kelani confirmed several raids were underway. The raids follow accusations from Macedonian leaders that Kosovo gunmen plotted terrorist attacks aimed at destabilizing Macedonia.

Last weekend 14 gunmen and eight police were killed and 37 wounded in clashes in the northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo. Another 26 people, most from Kosovo, are under arrest for the clashes.

Details about the fighting remain murky. Authorities claim the armed group stashed away weapons to launch attacks in a bid to unify Albanians living in Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia into one country. Some suggest authorities in Skopje sparked the clash, seeking to shift attention from corruption scandals that threaten to oust the ruling conservatives.

Some gunmen are former rebels who fought against Serbia in 1999 and Macedonia in 2001.

The weekend shootout has upset fragile relations in the Balkans and caught the eye of Europe's heavyweights.

Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov branded the clashes acts of terrorism and criticized the European Union's handling of the crisis.

"The EU must not take a cowardly position and pretend not to see, while trying to present this situation as an isolated episode," Lavrov said in Belgrade after talks with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic. His comments were translated from Russian into Serbian.

Lavrov even suggested that "events in Macedonia have been developing in the context" of the Macedonian government's pro-Russian policies, including its refusal to join the EU sanctions.

Western countries have questioned Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's right to govern the country, following a series leaked wiretaps that the opposition claims prove high level corruption and murder cover-ups. An anti-government rally has been called by the opposition on May 17.

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Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia