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Macedonia: NATO Says Albanian National Army 'Not Substantial'

Prague, 2 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A NATO spokesman today said an underground Albanian militant group which has threatened to attack Macedonian security forces is "not substantial." The self-styled Albanian National Army (AKSH) yesterday gave Macedonian police 24 hours to leave the village of Vaksince, 20 kilometers northeast of the capital Skopje, where they are searching for a fugitive rebel leader.

But NATO spokesman Mark Laity today told RFE/RL that AKSH has no public support. "They are trying to give the impression certainly that they are something they are not. They want to give the impression that they are some large substantial group with lots of public support. They are not large, they are not substantial, they have no support, they are certainly not an army," he said.

Laity said AKSH consists of people who have shown in the past "their propensity for violence and willingness to do dreadful things." But he said they lack the backing of local people, "who are afraid of them and of their propensity for violence."

Also today, Macedonian government spokesman Saso Colakovski rejected the ultimatum, saying security forces won't leave the area until they capture the rebel leader.