Brest – Record-breaker in seized weaponry
Commander Breza still controls the inaccessible ground
Bordering villages are made for smuggling, says Colonel Blagoja Markovski
Off course we have weapons, says Hamdi Bajrami, a k a commander Breza (Birch), while he is welcoming us near the hardly accessible road towards Brest, mountainous village near the border with Kosovo, just 30-km off Skopje.
But, he corrects the mistake immediately:
- No, there are no weapons, the police have collected it. What is left is for us to defend from the wolves – he says.
Bajrami is the local leader in Brest. He got the nickname commander Breza, after taking part in the conflict in 2001. The police have seized the largest amount of weapons in this village, last year. The arms were hidden next to his house.
- We have weapons. We are not terrorists as they call us, but we can use it. Life is difficult; the state does not support us at all. The police have searched throughout our houses, frightening the children. We are ready to defend ourselves if someone strikes again – says 25-year old local from Brest, introducing himself as Agim.
In Brest, Blace and Grushino last year the police have seized 102 pieces of weapons and 5,695 pieces of ammunition. This is the record breaking amount of weaponry seized in 2005.
The villagers say the police refuse to legalize the weaponry. Therefore, they buy weapons on the black market. The strict law on getting a license stimulates the illegal trafficking.
- I applied for a license, but the police turned me down. Hardly anyone gets license, although we really need the weapons to feel more secure in this mountain – says an older resident of Brest.
Blagoja Markovski, retired colonel, head of the disarmament operation, says the neighboring villages of Brest and Malino Malo are like made for smuggling.
- These are villages difficult to access and control. The locals are familiar with the narrow paths, which are easy way to smuggle weapons from one territory to another – says Markovski.
The report of the National Arms Association after the second disarmament operation in 2003 reads: “citizens in crisis areas, for which it is assumed that are in possession of military illegal weaponry, have not largely participated in disarmament operation. Small portion of military arms is handed over, although it is still dominant in the offers of arms dealers from these areas. There was total failure in Tetovo, Gostivar, Debar and Lipkovo regions.