Monday, May 17, 2004

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When international relations gets bizarre

Nicholas Wood reports in the New York Times about a truly bizarre effort by Macedonia's effort to ingratiate itself to Washington in late 2001/early 2002:

Roughly two months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, a group of high-level officials met here in Macedonia's Interior Ministry to determine how their country could take part in the United States-led campaign against terror.

Instead of offering troops to support American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, as other countries in the region had done, senior officials and police commanders conceived a plan to "expose" a terrorist plot against Western interests in Skopje, police investigators here say.

The plan, they say, involved luring foreign migrants into the country, executing them in a staged gun battle, and then claiming they were a unit backed by Al Qaeda intent on attacking Western embassies.

On March 2, 2002, this plan came to fruition when Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski announced that seven "mujahedeen" had been killed earlier that day in a shootout with the police near Skopje. Photos were released to Western diplomats showing bodies of the dead men with bags of uniforms and semiautomatic weapons at their side....

In late 2001, after a six-month guerrilla war with ethnic Albanian rebels, relations between Macedonia's nationalist government and the outside world were at a low ebb. Diplomats, government officials and investigators here have suggested that the government hoped to use the post-Sept. 11 campaign against terror to give the government a free hand in its conflict with the mostly Muslim ethnic Albanians.

This would be funny if it hadn't had real consequences:

The migrants - six Pakistanis and one Indian - had hoped to make their way to Western Europe, when they were contacted by the traffickers, and offered the possibility of traveling to Greece, the Interior Ministry official said. The Pakistanis were later identified as Muhammed Riaz, Omar Farooq, Syed Bilal, Hussein Shah, Asif Javed, and Khalid Iqbal. The name of the Indian remains unknown....

Autopsies performed on the men as well as police photos suggested that all the shooting had come from the police side, and that the police had tried to stage the crime scene.

All seven bodies had multiple bullet wounds and in one case as many as 53, according to the Interior Ministry. Later, the police showed pictures of a Lada jeep with two bullet holes in it as proof that a gun battle had taken place.

UPDATE: A hat tip to my commenters, who point out that this story is not a new one.

posted by Dan on 05.17.04 at 12:20 AM


FOX News covered this a few weeks ago, and it didn't become a story then. Perhaps all it needs is a Rumsfeld or Halliburton connection to get 24/7 CNN coverage.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 05.17.04 at 12:20 AM [permalink]

CNN also reported this several weeks ago. Why should get it 24/7 coverage?

posted by: Carl on 05.17.04 at 12:20 AM [permalink]

This is the second story the NYT has done on this. This story deals with the human consequences of this bit of seemingly petty villainy:

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.17.04 at 12:20 AM [permalink]

So, is Macedonia with us, or with the terrorists?

posted by: Jon h on 05.17.04 at 12:20 AM [permalink]

Jon H: Yes.

posted by: JorgXMcKie on 05.17.04 at 12:20 AM [permalink]

This story reminds me of a quote attributed to Stanley Kubrick: "The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes."

posted by: M. Strowbridge on 05.17.04 at 12:20 AM [permalink]

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