eran oppenheimer .nl

On the brink of civil war

In 2001 the Former Yugoslav Rupublic of Macedonia came to the brink of civil war, as ethnic Albanian rebels probed Macedonia from Kosovo. The true reasons for this conflict remain unclear, but it quickly deepened the ethnical division within Macedonia. The Albanians believed the rebels were fighting for equal rights in Macedonia, giving them crucial support in the northern ethnic Albanian villages along the Kosovo border. But the Macedonian side feared these rebels were fighting for a greater Albania, which in turn fueled nationalism.

A Macedonian T-55 tank in the streets of Tetovo during a large offensive against ethnic Albanian rebels. Macedonian soldiers at a checkpoint in Tetovo during a stand off with ethnic Albanian rebels. Tracer rounds light up the sky above Tetovo during  a nightly exchange of fire. Damage after a mortar shell fell near the Red Cross building in Tetovo. A Macedonian soldier at the checkpoint near the stadium of Tetovo during a 24 hours ceasefire. Members of the Red Cross visit refugees fleeing the fighting in villages around Tetovo. Macedonian reservists during the large scale offensive in and around Tetovo. A house caught fire after heavy artillery shelling in support of advancing Macedonian troops. Thousands ethnic Albanians gather for the burial of a KLA rebel at the Muslim cemetery of Tetovo. Ethnic Albanians pray during the burial ceremony of a fallen KLA rebel at the Muslim cemetery in Tetovo. Ethnic Albanians pay their respect during the burial of a fallen KLA rebel. Macedonian police officers close down a road after Macedonian tanks returned from the hills around Tetovo. KLA rebels pose in the village of Arachinovo before going out on a night patrol Few inhabitants  remained in the frontline villages. A KLA commander in the severely damaged mosque of Matecje. Women and children hurdle together in a makeshift bomb shelter  in the village of Otlja. More than two weeks after being cut off completely international aid finally arrives in areas held by the KLA. Machinegun position at a KLA strongpoint in the hills overlooking the Kumanovo region. A KLA rebel gets a haircut in the almost completely encircled village of Arachinovo. Scenes of death and destruction in the village of Matecje.

In March fighting erupted near Tetovo, a mostly ethnic Albanian city in the north-western part of the country. The fighting lasted a few weeks, until the Macedonian army launched an offensive and pushed the ethnic Albanian rebels out of the hills surrounding Tetovo.

Only a couple of months later the fighting diverted to the north east, when ethnic Albanian rebels seized a large part of the area north of Kumanovo and managed to take control of the village of Arachinovo, only a few kilometers from the capital Skopje. After the recapture of Arachinovo by Macedonian security forces, international diplomatic pressure led to the Ohrid peace agreement, which was signed in the summer.