U.S. Braces for Violence in Macedonia

A 47-man contingent of specially trained U.S. anti-terrorism troops arrived today in Macedonia.

The Marine "FAST" or fleet anti-terrorism support team is just outside the capital Skopje, the scene of violence against the United States and other NATO members on Tuesday. Additional demonstrations were expected tonight.

The FAST team was sent from Italy. They will provide security for the embassy in town as needed.

The United States had already quietly moved in about a dozen troops from its NATO peacekeeping force in neighboring Kosovo to provide more security for the embassy, officials said.

Non-essential personnel have been removed.

Further Trouble May Be Brewing

On Tuesday, some 3,000 protesters rampaged through the city, attacking the U.S., British and German embassies with rocks, and smashing up a McDonald's restaurant.

In response, the State Department updated a June warning to Americans visiting Macedonia to urge persons in the country to leave, and to urge U.S. citizens planning to visit to defer their trips.

"The situation in Macedonia is unsettled and potentially dangerous," the statement said, and noted U.S. government facilities may temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time.

NATO troops were braced for more trouble today, when additional demonstrations were scheduled.

There are 2,800 NATO troops in Skopje providing logistics and support for troops in Kosovo. Of those 2,800, some 600 are Americans, officials have said.

Hoping to Broker Peace

Many Macedonians are increasingly anti-Western, believing that NATO is siding with anti-government, ethnic Albanian rebels. Rioting broke out in late June, after U.S. troops unexpectedly evacuated several hundred ethnic Albanians, including some 100 armed rebels, from a village besieged by Macedanian government forces.

The U.S. government, which along with other NATO governments has been trying to broker a cease-fire settlement between the government and the rebels, has been trying to dispel the idea it favors the rebels.

"The allegations that have been made in some quarters about our supporting ethnic Albanian extremists are unfair. They're inaccurate and they are wrong," said State Department spokesman Phil Reeker.

U.S. troops increasingly are trying to stem the flow of arms from Kosovo into Macedonia by ethnic Albanians, according to the government figures.

Since June 1, officials say, U.S. troops have seized and destroyed 13 handguns, 55 assault rifles, four long rifles, one shotgun, 45 machine guns, 14,728 small arms rounds, 47 anti-tank rounds, 540 mortar rounds, 128 grenades, 131 explosive devices, 41 mines, and 81 miscellaneous weapons. ABCNEWS' Barbara Starr and David Ruppe contributed to this report.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...