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Macedonian police besiege village held by Albanian rebels

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Skopje (dpa) - Macedonian security forces early Friday surrounded a village close to the capital Skopje which has for the past week been occupied by Albanian rebels responsible for an attack on a police patrol on Monday.

The tense siege, which security sources say is aimed at preventing further violence in the village of Kondovo, threatens to shatter the fragile reconciliation process in the tiny Balkan country.

"The police came last night. They deployed during the morning, but are still at a distance,'' Agim Krasniqi, the leader of the armed Albanian gunmen, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "We will wait for them with guns, if they come and try to arrest us.''

Krasniqi, whose group has confronted Macedonian police on several occasions in the past year, is demanding a full amnesty for his men in return for lasting stability.

Four police officers were detained and beaten in Monday's incident but were later released.

Western observers have counted some 50 rebels in Kondovo, uniformed and armed with Kalashnikovs, mortars and rocket-launchers.

Krasniqi has denied that his group is linked to ethnic Albanian insurgents involved in a series of rebellions in Kosovo, southern Serbia and Macedonia in the past six years.

Their presence has however raised fears in Macedonia of renewed violence as seen during the ethnic Albanian uprising in 2001. The insurgency ended after international mediators facilitated a peace deal which gave the Albanian minority more rights. dpa ra ch

Deutsche Presse Agentur
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