The sixteen men, eight policemen and eight Macedonian soldiers, were patrolling along the road from the village of Vejce to the village of Sejce when, on Saturday, April 28, only some 15 kilometers from Tetovo, they fell into an ambush by the National Liberation Army. After a clash which lasted less than 10 minutes the Albanian terrorists withdrew, leaving behind them empty machine gun cartridges, hand grenade fuses, bazookas, wounded and dead Macedonian policemen and soldiers.
Four policemen and four soldiers were killed, all natives of Bitolj. On Monday, only hours after the funeral, several hundred Macedonians vented their fury and helplessness by demolishing and setting on fire almost 40 businesses owned by Albanians, Muslims and Goranis. There was bloodshed when the owner of one cafe took out a gun and fired into the mass in the hope of protecting his property. If a police patrol hadn't intervened, the angry Macedonians would have dispensed their own brand of justice on the spot.
Expressing his condolences to the families of the army and police victims, Boris Trajkovski, the president of the Republic of Macedonia, could not help but comment that the time had come for all the available forces to unite in defense against terrorism.
"In order to achieve this, it is necessary to check every centimeter of Macedonian territory and I believe that in this we will have the support of the international community," said Trajkovski.
The support of the international community followed at lightning speed. All relevant international factors publicly condemned the attack and in its annual report on international terrorist organizations, the State Department included the Liberation Army of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja (UCPMB). Macedonian President Trajkovski flew to the United States on Monday where he met with Colin Powell, the U.S. secretary of State, and on the following day with U.S. President George Bush, who promised that aid would continue to arrive in Macedonia, this time without preconditions.
"I think that the negotiation process is threatened and that the polarization between the Macedonians and Albanians has increased," said Arben Xhaferi. His suspicions were confirmed by the Macedonian president himself. Trajkovski said that terrorism has nothing in common with the rights of the Albanians in Macedonia and their requests.
That further political negotiations and agreements, changes to the Constitution so the Albanians will feel equal with regard to civil issues and the official use of the Albanian language, constitutionally guaranteed equality of the Albanian people essential in the opinion of Albanian political leader are now out of the question was further explained by Antonio Milososki, the spokesman of the Macedonian government, who said: "After these heinous murders, dialogue becomes pointless."
The Macedonians, confronted with the Yugoslav experience in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as in the south of Serbia, have never shown enthusiasm for Albanian requests because they are convinced that their fulfillment can only lead to the destruction of the state. They sat down at the negotiating table only after many international pressures, promises, threats and persuasion; now that they have found a reason to get up from that table, they did so without hiding their relief.
"Kosovo is a de facto protectorate. We must not allow the same thing to happen in Macedonia. If Albanian extremism continues at this tempo the Epirus area in Greece will soon be next," said Kiro Gligorov, the former president of Macedonia.
To make the situation in Macedonia even worse, it appears that negotiations on forming a new government of national unity that were supposed to be initiated by Premier Georgijevski and Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), have fallen through. Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska took the opportunity the other day to send a message through one of the Macedonian weeklies to the opposition, first and foremost, to Crvenkovski who has recently been one of the government's most vocal critics, "not to exploit this difficult situation to collect political points and change the government".
Perhaps impatience is a characteristic of those who are fighting for ideals, no matter what they are; but it is also quite certain that that very impatience on the road to their realization is very damaging - first and foremost, to themselves.
In fact, what occurred was unavoidable. The attack on the policemen and Macedonian soldiers near the village of Vejce was interpreted as the beginning of a new war campaign. The impatience of the man who hides behind the pseudonym of Commander Sokoli destroyed not only the bogus peace in Macedonia that had barely lasted a month but also provoked the fury of the Macedonian government, which then resolved apparently to destroy it once and for all. It may well be helped in this task by the international community that has finally began to call the Albanian armies of liberation by their real name.