A Fake Macedonia Terror Tale That Led to Deaths
Roughly two months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, a group of high-level officials met here in Macedonia’s Interior Ministry to determine how their country could take part in the United States-led campaign against terror.
Instead of offering troops to support American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, as other countries in the region had done, senior officials and police commanders conceived a plan to ”expose” a terrorist plot against Western interests in Skopje, police investigators here say.
The plan, they say, involved luring foreign migrants into the country, executing them in a staged gun battle, and then claiming they were a unit backed by Al Qaeda intent on attacking Western embassies.
On March 2, 2002, this plan came to fruition when Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski announced that seven ”mujahedeen” had been killed earlier that day in a shootout with the police near Skopje. Photos were released to Western diplomats showing bodies of the dead men with bags of uniforms and semiautomatic weapons at their side.
At the time, diplomats in Skopje questioned the government’s story, but it was not until the nationalist-led government lost elections in September 2002 and a new center-left administration came to power that the police began to investigate the shooting in earnest. The full extent of the state’s involvement in the incident has only emerged in the last two weeks.
On May 4, state prosecutors charged three senior police commanders with the killings, with two other police officers and a businessman. Mr. Boskovski, who was voted out of office with his colleagues in September 2002, is wanted for questioning in connection with the attack, but the police say he has fled the country and is believed to be in Croatia.
The current government has also raised the question of whether the man who was prime minister at the time, Ljubco Georgievski, knew about the plan.
Speaking in the Macedonian Parliament in late April, Hari Kostov, who was interior minister then and has since become prime minister, asked Mr. Georgievski if he had given ”the green light for the operation.”
Mr. Georgievski did not respond on this occasion, but he and Mr. Boskovski have consistently denied any knowledge of the plot. Nevertheless, former members of their administration say the investigation has implicated the state at very high levels,