A day-long gun battle with an ''armed group'' in an ethnic region of Macedonia leaves five officers dead and 30 wounded, and stokes fears of instability in this former Yugoslav republic. Mana Rabiee reports.
A day-long gun battle in northern Macedonia, in an ethnic Albanian region of this Balkan nation. At least five police officers were killed in clashes with what authorities say was an "armed group", and another 30 police wounded. It happened in a suburb of Kumanovo. Police evacuated residents from the immediate area where they had launched a dawn crackdown against the group. "It's terrible, terrible," says this woman. Her home is damaged, she says. "The house next to ours is on fire". The Interior Ministry says gunmen had "infiltrated" the country from an unnamed neighboring state ... and that they were planning (quote) "terrorist acts" , without going into detail. The leader of the main opposition party seemed to suggest the operation was carried out to create a diversion from months of political crisis. The government is on the ropes ... over allegations by of illegal wire-tapping and widespread abuse of office. Protesters have been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the opposition is threatening to rally thousands of people on May 17. Saturday's violence heightens fears of instability in this former Yugoslav republic. Some 30 percent of Macedonia's two million people are ethnic Albanians and observers fear political leaders on either side may try to stoke ethnic tensions as leverage.