Violence Spreads to Macedonia's 2nd-Largest City

From Associated Press

Ethnic Albanian guerrillas brought their insurgency from Macedonia's countryside to its second-largest city, exchanging gunfire with police Wednesday in an escalation of violence near Kosovo that threatens to flare into a new Balkan war.

Southern Serbia, the other potential tinderbox, was edgy but without reported violence as Yugoslav troops moved into an area held by ethnic Albanian insurgents. A truce appeared to be holding, but the successful deployment was overshadowed by the fighting in neighboring Macedonia.

Macedonian Interior Ministry spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said the clashes began when about 15 rebels opened fire with rifles in Kale, a suburb a mile north of downtown Tetovo, and in the nearby village of Selce. "The situation is exceptionally serious," Pendarovski said.

"Police are being shot at, and they are responding," said Macedonian Defense Ministry spokesman Blagoja Markovski.

One person was killed, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said. Raim Thaci, director of a Tetovo hospital, said at least 14 people were wounded, including 11 policemen.

Police said they had sent in more officers to prevent "more terrorists" from moving toward Tetovo.

Fearing the worst, Macedonian Slavs--the country's majority ethnic group--began fleeing Tetovo, which is a majority ethnic Albanian city. There were long lines at gas stations.

Earlier in the day, about 5,000 ethnic Albanians rallied on Tetovo's main square in support of the rebels. With every burst of fire heard in the distance, they cheered loudly, looking toward Kale and farther north to the mountains that form the border with Kosovo, which is a U.N.-administered province of Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic.

Ethnic Albanians account for at least a quarter of Macedonia's 2 million people.

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