GIANT WOODPECKERS-PART FOUR
Trip Start ??? 06, 2001
10Trip End ??? 07, 2001
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Where I stayed
It would appear that the police had just started checking passing vehicles that morning,for the first time,perhaps in response to information received about a possible attack on them.
The two men who had been killed were from an Albanian village to the north of the city,where people may have had a grievance about shelling,particularly during Tuesday's heavy onslaught.Their car had been stopped and asked to produce ID papers.The driver had been angered by this and had got out of the driver's seat and allegedly tried to throw a grenade at the police lines.He had been gunned down by automatic fire,and his elderly father,who had left the car to open the boot for inspection,was shot as well.Albanians contended that the man possessed only a mobile phone and was the victim of a misunderstanding.Some members of the press traced the family home of these men,from the Koraci family,and attempted to discover if their next of kin knew if they had any intention of committing a preconceived attack on Government forces.
I was in my room,in the top corner of the hotel,when I heard a voice outside.As I listened it became clear that it was John Phillips.He was speaking into his mobile phone and was obviously relating his story about the shooting at the road block to The Times in London.
This filled in the missing bits in what I had found out about the shooting,but I get the feeling that John was also announcing that he was now back from the rebel area and would like his room back!
Well,he wasn't getting it back now,but I was due to leave the next day to travel on to the Albania v England football match,and hopefully that would satisfy him.It was nice to see,on my return to England two weeks later,that his article had made a three page spread,with graphic photographs,in The Times,and brought home the nature of this conflict to the British public.
That night,the short ceasefire was expected to end again.At around 1 am,along with two TV cameramen,we climbed out of an upstairs window of the Hotel Macedonia,onto the flat roof,and waited in the dark of the night for the expected fireworks.A lone Government APC rumbled past the side of the hotel,and turned off towards the stadium,through the empty streets of the continuing curfew.A short while later,tracer fire from Government positions to the south west of the city centre square erupted with a ten minute burst at the Kale,and adjacent hills,the bullets ricochetting off the slopes being the only indication in the pitch blackness of where the hills began and the town ended.It didn't last long,and we retired for the night.
Having been reliably informed that the funeral was to be within walking distance at a cemetery to the south of the city centre in the afternoon,I looked for ways to fill the morning with something useful.Jake suggested that I visit the radio station,that was right on the frontline,just behind the tank positions near to the stadium.Manned by Slav Macedonians,I guess that they had been relatively untroubled by the conflict,but they did have a TV cameraman permanently stationed at the stadium position,and had been the only ones to film yesterday's shooting.They allowed me to view the full,unedited footage.Clearly,several still photographers had crowded round the victims just before they were shot,and,unusually,they were filming from behind the car as well as in front,at some risk of being caught in the crossfire when it all kicked off.