Monday, June 19, 2017


PREFACE: The revelations of a Serbian Intelligence officer under formal and open diplomatic cover inside Macedonia’s parliament during a violent showdown kicked up enormous controversy in the international media with allegations of Serb-Russian collusion against “pro West” Macedonian leader Zoran Zaev.

But what of Serbia and its traditional ally Greece and their history of joint intelligence operations in destabilising Macedonia? Was the failed assassination attempt on Macedonia’s President Kiro Gligorov in 1995 one such example?


by Sasha Uzunov

On 3 October 1995, in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, a parked car filled with plastic explosives detonated by remote control exploded as the official limousine of Macedonia’s president Kiro Gligorov drove by, killing his driver and wounding his bodyguard and passersby. President Gligorov sustained serious head injuries, losing his right eye and was lucky to survive. To this day, no one knows who was behind the failed hit. TEAM UZUNOV research has uncovered some interesting circumstantial evidence pointing to a Greek connection with possible Serb intelligence links.

THE BASIC FACTS OF THE CASE -the attempted hit on President Gligorov- modus operandi: 

A parked car--a French Citroen Ami 8 purchased in Macedonia by a still unknown person--packed with plastic explosives, believed to be PETN, and weighted down with something heavy in order to push the blast in a particular direction, namely towards the oncoming Macedonian Presidential limousine, and detonated by remote control.

The shrapnel, flying pieces of deadly metal, produced by the explosion, would do the actual killing or maiming, much like, a US Army Claymore mine operates - it uses a plastic explosive to push out numerous ball bearings within a “killing zone” which shred a target to pieces.


The plastic explosive, PETN, was not produced in Macedonia in 1995, and was believed to have been obtained from outside the country. PETN is manufactured in Serbia and is also available in Greece, which produces another plastic explosive C4. PETN can also be used as a detonating cord for high explosives such as C4.

After the attempt on Gligorov’s life, a statement was issued by the Macedonian authorities:

“…security chief Blagoja Nikolovski told journalists on Wednesday that forensic experts from the United States, Britain and Germany were on their way to Skopje to help their investigation.

"Early police reports said that the kind of explosives used in the attack were not produced in Macedonia. Nikolovski told journalists that over 150 people were questioned during the investigation, but no arrests have been made."


The Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from rump Yugoslavia in 1991 after Slovenia and Croatia had earlier decided to secede from the federation leaving only Serbia and Montenegro to remain in the rump. In 1992 Serbia’s ruler Slobodan Milosevic after negotiations with President Gligorov decided to withdraw the Yugoslavia Army from Macedonia, taking, in fact stealing, anything that wasn’t bolted down in terms of military hardware and leaving Macedonia defenceless. Milosevic was at the time waging a ruthless war in Croatia and Bosnia to carve out a Greater Serbia from the wreckage of Yugoslavia and could not afford to open up a third front in Macedonia. Milosevic refused to recognise Macedonia until 1995.

Milosevic and successive Greek governments conspired to destabilise Macedonia and have it either “return” to defacto Serb-Yugoslavist rule or partition the country between Serbia and Greece. A joint intelligence operation named “Samaras’s Pincer was formulated that would involve all sorts of destabilisation tricks, just short of full scale war. (see link here). Greece still refuses to recognise the existence of a Macedonian ethnic identity and has waged a long diplomatic war to block the country from being recognised under its constitutional name. There is a sizeable Macedonian minority within Greece that Athens has denied basic human rights to.


According to Gligorov’s autobiography, “Macedonia is all that we have," he, President Gligorov had been offered a bribe by Greece if he agreed to change Macedonia’s name.

Neighbouring Bulgaria, despite rushing to recognise Macedonia’s independence in 1991, has long held the view that Macedonians are “Western Bulgarians” and that a Macedonian state should eventually gravitate towards Sofia. Bulgaria, too, has since 1991 been busy trying to infiltrate into the political affairs of Macedonia with the aim of taking over Macedonia. Accusations were made that Bulgaria together with Albanian separatists provoked war in Macedonia in 2001 in order to partition the country (see link here). There is also a sizeable Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.

Killing President Gligorov would have plunged Macedonia into a crisis, perhaps even a war.

Above photo - Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou- PASOK (Greek Socialist Party) -1981-89 and 1993-96


In 1994, according to the Washington Post, Greece planned for war in The Republic of Macedonia:

"The contingency planning parallels Greek moves that increase the chances for upheaval in Macedonia. The Greeks are pursuing a slow-motion military buildup on their northern frontier. And an economic blockade of Macedonia ordered by Papandreou on Feb. 16 is depleting Macedonia's scarce foreign reserves.
"Papandreou's brinkmanship has revived suspicion that Greece and Serbia have already agreed to carve up Macedonia if the conflicts of the other ex-Yugoslav republics spill over there. Both Belgrade and Athens strongly deny these suspicions, initially passed on to Washington by European governments.

In 1993, British Foreign Minister (Foreign Secretary) Douglas Hurd, whilst on a visit to Skopje, proposed to Gligorov that Macedonia should “return” to Serb Yugoslavist rule once the wars were over, meaning once Milosevic had quickly wrapped up his objectives, which never came to pass.

Gligorov didn’t take up the British “proposal.”

MODUS OPERANDI - Following the evidence…?

MODUS OPERANDI - Greek calling card? 1988 William Nordeen assassination - exactly the same as 1995 Gligorov hit?

A number of terrorist groups/insurgents/rebels have used car bombs to devastating effect - the Provisional Irish Republican Army (aka PIRA, The IRA, the Provos) in Northern Ireland against the British, Basques separatists in Spain (ETA), and even various foreign intelligence services the world over. But we can discount the IRA, the Basques and a multitude of others, for the simple reason there is no motive to attack Macedonia, a tiny country and itself a victim of colonialism and imperialism by neighbouring states.

A shadowy Greek terrorist group by the name of 17 November sprung up in the mid 1970s after the collapse of the right wing military dictatorship (1967-74). The group was said to be extreme leftist, Trotskyist but later became extreme nationalist though opposed to American “imperialism” and the capitalist system.

17 November, in a reign of terror lasting nearly 30 years murdered over 20 people, namely Greek political figures, and some US intelligence officials and diplomats. The last assassination was of the British attaché in retaliation for the US and NATO war in Kosovo against Serbia.


The 1988 assassination of US Naval Attaché, Captain William Nordeen, by Greek terrorist group 17 November resembles the attempted Gligorov hit in 1995 almost down to the finest details, such as Gligorov’s route by car, timings, etc.

The Los Angeles Times story on the Nordeen hit:

"A police explosives expert who refused to be identified said the bombing was "perfectly planned and very well executed. . . . They thought of every detail.

“The expert said bags of cement were piled against one side of the booby-trapped vehicle so the explosion’s full force would be directed toward Nordeen's car."

And this from the US Defense Department - link :

"After weeks of surveillance the terrorists made plans. They stole a blue Toyota, put counterfeit plates on it, and placed 50-pounds of high explosives in the trunk with a radio-controlled firing device. They lined the left side of the trunk, which would be nearest the curb, with bags of cement to direct the blast to the roadway.

"On the morning of the attack, Captain Nordeen left for work in his lightly armoured Ford Grenada and turned left onto a one-way street as he always did. At 6:00 AM, as he passed the blue Toyota on his left, the terrorists detonated the bomb, throwing the armored car 18 feet, flipping it onto its roof and lodging it in a steel fence. The blast threw the Toyota 25 feet up the street. Nordeen died only 100-yards from his residence as his body was thrown 30 feet from his car.”

But 17 November did not take part in any “foreign operations” and stayed in Greece, the experts have all concluded. Was the Gligorov job the group’s first external venture? Or did someone simply copy the group’s method? Any terrorist group in the world has probably used the same method of bombing but not all terrorist groups have motivate in killing a President of a tiny Balkan nation in South-eastern Europe. However, 17 November was fanatically anti Turkish over the Cyrpus issue and pro Serb and regarded the US and NATO involvement in Kosovo as “Western Imperialism.” In 2000, the Greek terror coup assassinated the British Defence Attaché in Athens, Brigadier Stephen Saunders, in retaliation against NATO over Kosovo.

Accusations were raised about possible collusion between the Greek government of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou- PASOK (Greek Socialist Party) - and 17 November but were dismissed as outright wild conspiracy theory. Papandreou was Prime Minister from 1981-89 and 1993-96. His rival, Conservative, Konstantin Mitsotakis was Prime Minister from 1990-93. Both pursued anti Macedonian policies and colluded by Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

Former US diplomat,  E. Wayne Merry was the Deputy Political Counselor in Athens from 1987-1990. and raised some important points - link:

"I said then and later that Greece did not have the world’s worst terrorism problem or anything like it, but Greece did have the world’s worst counterterrorism problem. It became quite clear to me and to others that not only were the Greek police lacking in modern constabulary competence, but politically there was almost no motivation to stop the terrorists. In fact, they were tolerated by the PASOK government, which regarded them as fellow comrades from the struggle against the colonels’ regime who had simply not yet given up the armed struggle, but would in time.

"The Greek police were not very competent. For example, on a number of cases, the officer in charge of the scene of a political assassination would give expended shell casings to his journalist friends as souvenirs. Basic ballistic evidence, shell casings on the scene after somebody had been shot, would be given away as souvenirs.

"One of the senior uniformed police officers held me back so that he and I would be the last. As we were going down he hit the button to bring the elevator to a stop so we could talk but nobody could hear us. He proceeded to unload on me.

"He said, “Look, we’re not Sherlock Holmes here, but we’re not idiots. We can catch these bastards. But we’re handcuffed.” And he put his hands in front of him as if his hands were in handcuffs. “The political leaders don’t want us to get these guys. The only way we’re ever going to get these bastards is if you Americans get our political orders changed. We’re not complete idiots here. We can do the job if we’re given an opportunity.”

The very technique in the bomb making would exclude any domestic group or individual in Macedonia as being beyond their capabilities. This then leads to a disturbing conclusion that the group or individuals who did carry out the attempted murder of President Gligorov would had to have had “inside information” from high ranking Macedonians as to the President’s routine. There would have to have been helpers, accomplices.

There is the purchase of the vehicle in Macedonia itself and used as the bomb. Hiding it presumably somewhere in Skopje, the capital, rigging it up and so on before parking it into place until President Gligorov’s car drove by and then detonating it. Smuggling the explosives into Macedonia would not have been difficult considering Macedonia’s government and its Interior Ministry, which runs the country’s police, border guards, and intelligence services, was heavily corrupt and involved in busting UN sanctions for Serbia, which had as the rump Yugoslavia waged war in the Balkans. -see link here

All of this, a combination of hard and circumstantial evidence and speculation on the part of TEAM UZUNOV, points to a joint Serb-Greek operation. The Macedonian Interior Ministry-- with German assistance--constructed a “dummy” or mannequin (left) believed to be of the buyer of the Ami 8. It is alleged he spoke in Serbian. Moreover, Serbia inherited the federal structure of Yugoslavia including its army (JNA) and the federal intelligence service (SDB or UDBa), which had a ferocious reputation in liquidating opponents abroad. UDBa had the technical expertise to mount the assassination attempt upon President Gligorov.

ODD STATEMENTS: After the failed attempt to murder President Gligorov

"One Macedonian official said that even if a culprit is found the person's identity or origin may never be released."  - (The question is why?).

Then another odd statement (and generalisation), 'this one from journalist Vladimir Petreski:

"A lot of people don't want to know as they are scared of what might happen."

- (Scared of what happening?).

 PERSONS OF INTEREST - those who might be able to throw more light on the attempted assassination of President Gligorov:

1. Ljubomir Frckoski
- the controversial politician, “public intellectual,” was Macedonia’s Interior Minister during the Gligorov assassination attempt. His portfolio included the Police, Border Control and Intelligence Services. He was a senior member of the then SDSM (Social Democrats) government of Macedonia led by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski. A government that was one of the most corrupt in recent Macedonian history, heavily involved in illegal smuggling in breaking United Nations sanctions imposed upon the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Serbia. That corruption reached the very top, the Prime Minister Crvekovski himself,  as this declassified 1995 CIA report shows:

Frckoski was very close to Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic during the UN sanctions busting era of the early 1990s as Serbia kept its war machine ticking over in Bosnia and Croatia. 

British academic James Pettifer writing in the Wall Street Journal, 1994 

BULGARIAN RED HERRING - Multigroup affair?

Frckoski was one of the first to push the view that a Bulgarian company with links to former Bulgarian Communist Intelligence Service (KDS) was behind the attempted murder of president Gligorov. This line of “investigation” led nowhere, into a dead end street, pardon the pun. The result was the suspected “suicide” of Ivo Jancev, Multigroup’s representative in Macedonia.

This photo and the one above of the Police mannequin are from the book “Atentat” by Zoran Petrov, Nova Makedonija, Skopje, Macedonia, 1996. The book is in Macedonian and is an excellent summary of the details then known about the assassination attempt. 

It includes the lines of enquiry pursued, various theories then circulating about the attack on President Gligorov.

In an interview for a US think tank, ex Macedonia President Gligorov slammed the then Interior Minister Frckoski for poor investigation into the attempted assassination and for deliberately indulging in fruitless speculation - see link here 

International Affairs Forum: Mr. President, in 1995 you survived an assassination attempt. The initial investigation failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. Do you have any new information about who may be responsible for this terrorist act? 

President Gligorov: There is still no real progress in the investigation, only speculations in the press. Before the assassination attempt, I was insisting on less guard protection. I often traveled with minimal security. It was my fault, in a way. I should have been better protected. When the interior minister gave a speech about the progress of the investigation, he had no facts to present. He said that one multinational organization operating from a neighboring country might have been involved. Another speculation was that the Serbian ultranationalist Zeljko Raznjatovic (Arkan) was involved. Our Interior Ministry was presenting only speculations, but speculations are not facts. The interior minister should have resigned at that time. You can not prosecute anybody based on speculations. Ten years have passed since the assassination attempt and there is still no progress. 

IA-Forum: Did the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) or other foreign intelligence agencies help with the investigation? 

President Gligorov: During one of my meeting with the (former) CIA Director George Tenet, I decided to ask him if the CIA has any new information regarding the assassination. He told me that he had no information but said: "I will call you and let you know about any new information we may have". He never called me. He resigned recently over Iraq. The European intelligence agencies were also not helpful. 

IA-Forum: Mr. President, right after the re-election of President George W. Bush, the U.S. decided to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name. In your opinion, what were the reasons for this decision? 

President Gligorov: The U.S. decided to recognize us under the constitutional name primarily for two reasons. First, we are one of the countries in the "coalition of the willing". Second, we complied with the U.S. request to sign a bilateral agreement that exempts them from the International Criminal Court. Nowadays, our politicians follow and comply with almost everything the Americans request. I don’t think this is good, despite the fact that we are a small country. 

Frckoski in an act of high political theatre tendered his “resignation” after the assassination attempt but it was not “accepted” by the then Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski and so he remained Interior Minister. The whole charade, going by the comments above, the ex President did not buy.


2. Jovica Stanisic - Stanisic was Slobodan Milosevic’s intelligence chief and also the United States CIA’s man inside. If Serbia was involved then he would know. Furthermore, as a high level CIA informer, it raises the disturbing possibility did the US know before hand of the attempted hit on President Gligorov? If it did, why did it allow the attack to play out and not warn the Macedonian President in advance? Was this to protect Stanisic as a source or something more sinister?

Dr John Schindler, ex National Security Agency analyst, explains:

"One of the facts which may complicate the new trial is Jovica Stanišić’s longtime relationship with American intelligence. Throughout the 1990s, when he headed Serbia’s sinister secret police, The Iceman was an agent of the CIA, as Langley has admitted. His CIA case officer maintains that having such a valuable back-channel to the very top security circles in Belgrade “did a whole lot of good” at preventing ugly Balkan wars from getting even worse. That may be true, but one hardly need be a congenital skeptic to have questions about what Washington knew about war crimes as they happened in something like real time…

"[Stanisic began his career in]…Communist Yugoslavia’s secret police, the notorious UDBA. Although Marshal Tito and his renegade Red regime got good Western press during the Cold War, when Yugoslavia was valued by NATO for its usefulness in blunting Soviet aims in Southern Europe, UDBA was every bit as unpleasant as the KGB.
"Indeed, Yugoslav spies were in many ways even nastier than their Soviet counterparts during the Cold War. When the KGB got out of the assassination business abroad in the late 1950s—what Kremlin spies termed “wetwork”—because the associated political risks were too great, UDBA went into that sinister field with gusto.
"Between the mid-1960s and the collapse of Yugoslavia a quarter-century later, UDBA assassinated about a hundred Yugoslav émigrés in the West. Most of these hits took place in Western Europe, but they spanned the globe, including a dozen assassinations in the United States (none of which were ever prosecuted). Western intelligence services, including American ones, averted eyes to this unpleasantness since Tito was strategically useful in the Cold War.
"In a nasty innovation, UDBA outsourced much of its wetwork to Balkan mafiosi, who were skilled at murder and were perfectly content to kill for Belgrade in exchange for leniency about other crimes. Tito’s secret police thereby created cadres of career criminals experienced in state-sanctioned murder—a development which would have fateful consequences when the country fell apart a decade after Tito’s death in 1980.”

3. Steven Lalas is an American of Greek ancestry and a former US State Department communications officer. Charged with espionage-related offences in connection with passing sensitive military and diplomatic information to Greece, he was arrested in northern Virginia in 1993 - two years before the Gligorov attack.

Lalas pled guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Later paroled, Lalas immigrated to Greece to serve out the remainder of his parole.

During his active years as a spy, Lalas passed an estimated 700 highly classified documents, that included U.S. gathered intelligence information of Turkish military strategy in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus, and U.S. diplomatic assessments and views on the Republic of Macedonia. see link here and here 

US top secret information that Lalas was feeding to his Greek intelligence handlers about the Republic of Macedonia would have been invaluable in formulating an assassination attempt. Whoever his Greek handlers were may point to the alleged assassin or assassins.

GENERAL GRYLLAKIS - the last piece of the puzzle? 

Greek General Nikos Gryllakis - Was he the operational brains behind the attempted Gligorov hit in 1995?

The former Greek General, a military intelligence specialist trained by the CIA, has passed away at age 91. A controversial figure who fled Greece and sought “sanctuary” in the Republic of Macedonia in 1993 to avoid prosecution in a wiretap scandal involving Greek politicians.

General Gryllakis was close to then Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis and was the go-between Athens and Skopje.

When the Mitsotakis government fell the General came running to Macedonia with allegedly suitcases full of “documents” relating to Greece’s position on Macedonia’s name and other tantalising intelligence tidbits.

According to a report in a Macedonian website, expres, Macedonian President Gligorov had a falling out with his then Interior Minister Ljubobmir Frckoski, who unbeknownst to the President, had given General Gryllakis “sanctuary” in exchange for intelligence.

A Greek report in 2001 claimed that President Gligorov had named the General as the man who had tried to bribe him over Macedonia changing its name. 

General Gryllakis eventually returned to Greece and was never prosecuted for his alleged role in the wiretapping scandal nor for subsequently passing secret information to the Macedonian government after he fled in 1993. 

This raises the possibility of him being a double agent and the man on the ground in Macedonia --together with assistance from Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic and local helpers in Macedonia --who could have orchestrated the unsuccessful assassination attempt on President Gligorov in 1995.

He had the know-how, the motive, and the means to pull it off… But we will never know now!

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