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Kosovo Calls For Investigation After Macedonia Convicts Group For Deadly Gunbattle


Kosovo has called for an international investigation over the conviction of several of its citizens by a Macedonian court for taking part in a gunbattle with police.

"Justice must be done," Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said in a statement on November 3. "An international investigation would help find the truth, which we are all demanding."

The call came a day after a criminal court in Skopje convicted 33 men of terror charges over a two-day shoot-out with police in 2015 that left 22 people dead, including eight security officers.

Seven of the men, ethnic Albanians mostly from Kosovo and Macedonia, were handed life sentences, while four defendants in the case were acquitted and the remaining given prison terms ranging from 12 to 40 years.

The defendants have denied the charges, saying they acted in self-defense.

Crowds flooded the streets of Kosovo's capital, Pristina, after the sentences were handed down, accusing the Macedonian authorities of staging the attack.

Kosovo's media and officials have said several times that the accused Albanians were innocent and the victims of a plot by Macedonia's former nationalist government. Skopje has vehemently denied the accusations.

Haradinaj did not say who should carry out the investigation or how it should be conducted.

Behgjet Pacolli, Kosovo's foreign minister, said he had called his ambassador in Skopje for consultations and asked for a "clarification" from the Macedonian ambassador in Pristina. He did not give further details.

The 2015 shoot-out occurred during a police raid that followed an attack by armed men on a border post. Some of them were former guerrillas from the National Liberation Army, an ethnic Albanian militia that fought an insurgency in 2001 in which scores of people were killed.

Macedonia, a small ex-Yugoslav republic of 2.1 million people, declared independence in 1991 and mostly avoided the violence that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, until the clashes with ethnic Albanian fighters in 2001.

Albanians are believed to make up around one-quarter of Macedonia's population, living mostly in the northwest near the borders with Kosovo and Albania.

With reporting by Reuters, KTV, and KoSSev
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