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Explosion Rocks Macedonian City

November 18, 2001

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) _ A powerful explosion on Sunday ripped through a city in northwestern Macedonia, and a shadowy ethnic Albanian militant group claimed responsibility for the blast.

Macedonian police said an explosive device was detonated near the market in Tetovo, but no one was injured.

``It was a strong explosive device of an unidentified type, several shops were damaged″ police spokesman Vasko Sutarov told The Associated Press.

Alban Berisha, a spokesman for a new militant group calling itself the Albanian National Army, told the AP by telephone that his organization claims responsibility for the bomb attack.

``This is a response to (interior minister Ljube) Boskovski’s claims that we are nonexistent and a phantom organization,″ Berisha said.

He also announced that there would be ``more similar actions during next week.″

The explosion came a day after Macedonian police and ethnic Albanian rebels traded gunfire near the village of Preljubiste, just outside a tense area where three policemen were slain earlier in the week.

The Albanian National Army earlier threatened a new insurgency, saying that it had ``started the war for the liberation of all Albanian territories in former Yugoslavia,″ an allusion to Macedonia’s former status as a Yugoslav republic.

Another, much larger militant group _the National Liberation Army _ began fighting in February for greater rights for Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority, but agreed to end its struggle in August when a peace deal expanding their rights was reached.

Acknowledging that his group had only about 50 fighters, Berisha nonetheless said they were well-trained and equipped and were ``more than enough to wage a guerrilla war in Macedonia.″

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