Police in Macedonia said yesterday that the killing of seven alleged terrorists two years ago was staged to win US support and that the victims were simply illegal immigrants.
Mirjana Konteska, a police spokeswoman, said that six people, including three former police commanders, two special police officers and a businessman, have been charged with murder. "That was an act of a sick mind," she said. "They ordered the brutal murder of seven Pakistani men."
The killings were carried out in March 2002 by special police who claimed to have eliminated a terrorist group plotting to attack embassies and representatives in Macedonia. The spokeswoman said that the seven victims had been lured into Macedonia with promises that they would be transferred to Western Europe. They were taken by police to the Rastanski Lozja area, which is north-east of the capital Skopje, where they were encircled and shot by special officers using automatic weapons.
"They lost their lives in a staged murder," she said. There was no immediate comment from international officials in Macedonia. Western representatives in the country had demanded an investigation. Macedonia has been a close US ally in the Balkans and has supported the war on terrorism.
Also facing possible charges in connection with the case is the former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, who was chief of police at the time. He is likely to be charged if parliament revokes the immunity from prosecution he enjoys as a deputy.
He denied the allegations, telling reporters that he and his associates were tipped off about the alleged terrorists by unidentified American intelligence officers. If found guilty, the suspects could face from 10 years to life in prison.