SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonian police on Thursday announced the arrests of nine people suspected of belonging to the Islamic State group and said they are seeking a further 27, following raids in the capital, Skopje, and several towns in the northeast of the country.
Interior ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski told The Associated Press that all those arrested are Macedonian nationals. They are suspected of being volunteers or recruiters for the group to fight in Syria and Iraq.
Islamic State is banned in Macedonia, where participation of the country's citizens in overseas militant groups carries a sentence of at least four years in prison.
Interior Minister Mitko Cavkov said the people arrested included a Muslim cleric believed to be the group's main organizer. It was unclear whether they are suspected of planning terrorist attacks in Macedonia.
The police raids took place late Wednesday in Skopje and the northeastern towns of Kumanovo, Tetovo, Gostivar and Struga. Officers searched 25 houses, an Internet cafe, a mosque and the offices of two Islam-linked NGOs, and seized computers, mobile phones and cash
Cavkov said 130 people from Macedonia are believed to have joined the Islamic State militants and fought in Syria or Iraq. At least 16 Macedonians have been killed in the fighting.