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North Macedonia Says Police Prevent 'Terrorist Act' By Islamic State Backers

Fighters from the Balkans, including Macedonia, are shown in a propaganda film by the Islamic State insurgent group in 2015. (file photo)

Police in North Macedonia have prevented a planned "terrorist act" by supporters of the Islamic State (IS) militant group, the Western Balkan country's Interior Ministry says.

The ministry on February 15 said the authorities launched several raids after exchanging intelligence with a "partner country” regarding IS supporters' "potential plans and intentions for committing a terrorist act."

It said the raids took place in "several locations...taking away objects and devices related to the possible attack."

The U.S. Embassy in Skopje on February 15 also issued a security alert to its citizens traveling to the country, warning of "a heightened risk of terrorist attacks inspired by extremist ideology in North Macedonia."

Authorities in the country in 2016 estimated that some 150 Macedonian nationals had traveled to fight alongside Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria.

Most of them came from the country's mainly Muslim ethnic-Albanian minority, which represents about one-fourth of the population of 2.1 million people.

The country recently changed its name to North Macedonia from Macedonia after an agreement with Greece to settle a long-standing dispute. Athens opposed the use of the name Macedonia, which is also the name of a northern province of Greece.

The agreement and normalization of relations with Greece will help clear the way for North Macedonia to join NATO, most likely later this year or early 2020, and eventually the European Union.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters