North Macedonia Arrests Eight Men Suspected Of Creating Terrorist Organization.

Eight men have been arrested in North Macedonia on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks, police said on December 28.

Authorities suspect the men have links with the Islamic State terrorist group, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The men were arrested late on December 27 in Skopje and the town of Kumanovo following an investigation lasting several months, the statement said.

One of the suspects had a previous conviction of participation in the Islamic State group.

The eight have been charged with creating a terrorist organization based on the ideology of Islamic State “for committing murders and destroying public buildings" and with the aim of creating fear or insecurity among the public.

No specific targets in North Macedonia were mentioned. If convicted, the suspects, who are between the ages of 21 and 31, face prison sentences of up to 10 years.

Officers also seized a large quantity of weapons at eight locations in the north of the country.

The men are accused of procuring the weapons, ammunition, and military equipment and hiding them near Kumanovo. Authorities also accused the men of making improvised explosive devices and carrying out test firings.

The men allegedly shared their plans, including blueprints for making explosive-lined vests for suicide bombings, in an online platform.

North Macedonia has a large, mostly Muslim ethnic Albanian community, and radical Islamists have been active in the country and elsewhere in the region.

Police said the men belong to the same group as three others who were arrested in September on suspicion of storing a large quantity of ammunition, mines, and explosives near Kumanovo.

The arrests come less than two months after an Austrian-born man of Macedonian-Albanian descent killed four people and wounded more than 20 in Vienna before being shot dead by police.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

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