Macedonia: Pakistani Killings Controversy Resurfaces

Karachi consulate blast renews calls for investigation into killings of Pakistanis by the Macedonian police.

Macedonia: Pakistani Killings Controversy Resurfaces

Karachi consulate blast renews calls for investigation into killings of Pakistanis by the Macedonian police.

Tuesday, 6 September, 2005

A bomb attack on the Macedonian consulate in Karachi on December 5 has revived demands for an investigation into the killing of six Pakistanis this year in an ambush by Macedonian police who claimed they were terrorists.

Western and Macedonian commentators reiterated their claims that the ambush victims had not been terrorists at all but were simply poor migrants on their way to seek jobs in Greece.

Ljubomir Frckovski, former Macedonian foreign minister and international law professor, told the media, "Just as we demand a full investigation by the Pakistani authorities, we should conduct our own inquiry into the cold-blooded murder of Pakistani immigrants in Macedonia.

"If we don't do that on our side, we have no right to ask the Pakistanis for a full investigation into the Karachi bomb."

A senior western diplomat in Skopje agreed: "Whether or not these two cases are linked, the killing of the seven must be investigated. If not, this will overshadow Macedonia's reputation in the international community for years to come."

Three people died in the Karachi attack, none of them Macedonian. Skopje's foreign ministry quickly claimed the bombing was linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

A Macedonian foreign ministry statement said, "According to unofficial information, a possible organiser of the attack could be a Pakistani cell of the al-Qaeda network."

Karachi police said the victims of Thursday's bomb attack were a security guard and two unidentified persons, who were believed to have been killed before the explosion. No Macedonian citizens were employed at the consulate.

"It's certainly an act of terrorism, but we have no details about what kind of group was involved," Pakistani police officials said. American and British intelligence in Karachi were also reported to be investigating.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Santa Argirov said the Macedonian consul, Bilal Ahmed Qureshi, a well known Pakistani businessman from an influential family, had suggested the bombing could be linked to a recent protest in Karachi by the families of six Pakistanis killed in the Macedonia ambush on March 2, 2002.

No group has claimed responsibility for the Karachi attack, but Macedonian officials claim a message on the consulate walls warned, "We are from al-Qaeda Pakistan. We will treat the unbelievers the way they treat us".

The Wall Street Journal reported that the six Pakistanis and an Indian killed along with them were just illegal migrants on their way to Greece hoping to find work in the run-up to the Olympic games. Media researchers said there was no link between the slain men and any extremist group.

Macedonian police, then headed by hard line interior minister Ljube Boskovski, said at the time the case was closed, and there was nothing left to investigate. He tried to link the seven slain men to al-Qaeda and ethnic Albanian rebels engaged in armed conflict in Macedonia in early 2001.

Nicolaas Biegman, NATO's ambassador and political representative in Skopje, commented on the ambush case at the beginning of November, following the election of a new, more moderate Macedonian government.

"The best research done so far points at a group of poor devils on their way to find work in Greece, who never had anything to do with extremism of any kind, as was alleged," he said.

"Should this prove to be correct, then their families deserve ample compensation, and those responsible should be punished. This is not a question that will go away by itself, and Macedonia would meet with great international acclaim if it took the initiative in solving the question."

At the time of the ambush, Boskovski offered guerrilla uniforms and guns, allegedly found with the dead, as proof that the men were mujahedin fighters, although western powers challenged this account. The new interior minister, Hari Kostov, has promised to reopen the case.

Some western diplomats in Skopje have expressed doubts that the attack in Karachi came as a revenge for the killing of the Pakistanis.

"We have no clear indication that this was linked - but also no proof excluding it. It is also possible that the motive might be much more trivial," said one diplomat, who did not want to be named.

Macedonian authorities have hesitated to link the Karachi attack with the seven killed. "We don't know what the motives of the attack were, and for now we have no indication that it came in revenge for the March incident," a government official told IWPR.

A spokesman for the US State Department condemned the Karachi attack and said there was as yet no information about the perpetrators.

Since the Karachi attack, Skopje has ordered its embassies to tighten their security measures. "This attack makes me even more determined that we should be a part of the anti-terrorism coalition," Macedonian foreign minister Ilinka Mitreva told reporters.

Saso Ordanoski is the IWPR project coordinator in Skopje and the editor-in-chief of Forum magazine.

Macedonia, Pakistan
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