Looks relatively quiet and peaceful, no? That was not the case a few years ago…
The Macedonian Insurgency
In early 2001 a group of ethnic Albanian rebels began operating in several villages near the Macedonia-Kosovo and Macedonian-Albanian borders. The insurgency centered on the town of Tetovo and in the Sar Mountains north of Tetovo. The group used several names, most prominently the National Liberation Army (NLA) and later the Albanian National Army (ANA). Calculated small-scale attacks pressed the Macedonian government security forces (which were predominantly Macedonian Slav). The Bulgarian government provided the Macedonian government with weapons and ammunition, including a shipment of tanks. Meanwhile, Western European nations promised security aid if Slav and Albanian Macedonians could reach a political settlement. However, fighting continued.
In June 2001, Turkey reported that thousands of Macedonian refugees (Macedonian Muslim refugees) were entering Turkey. That same month a major battle developed around Aracinovo (an ethnic Albanian suburb of the capital, Skopje). The NLA had at least 400 fighters in Aracinovo. The Macedonian Army introduced tanks and attack helicopters and the fighting began to escalate.
The NLA threatened to attack Skopje which prompted NATO and the EU to help negotiate a ceasefire that led to the removal of the NLA fighters – with NATO protection. However, the ceasefire quickly collapsed. At that time, KFOR units in Kosovo arrested several members of the NLA who were operating inside Kosovo.
On August 10th, Bulgaria called for an “international mobilization” to stop the civil war in Macedonia. Bulgaria feared that the Macedonian conflict could spread, affecting Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkans. On August 13th, the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian leaders signed a peace agreement, which the NLA claimed it would support. The government agreed to enact laws to protect Macedonian Albanians, including language rights. On August 14th, the NLA signed an agreement with NATO which said that the NLA agreed to give up its weapons to NATO peacekeepers.
NATO reinforced its peacekeeping presence inside Macedonia with Operation Essential Harvest. Troops arrived at the same time the Macedonian government reported an NLA incursion from Kosovo near the village of Banjiste on August 18th. The August 13th ceasefire became the Framework Agreement (Ohrid Agreement) which encouraged ethnic Albanian political participation in Macedonian politics. Intermittent fighting, however, continued for another two years.