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Context of 'After 1994-1999: CIA and Bin Laden Train KLA in Albania'

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Bin Laden visits Albania as a member of a Saudi government delegation. He is introduced as a friend of the Saudi government who could finance humanitarian projects. Yet, earlier the same month, the Saudi government supposedly cut all ties with bin Laden (see April 9, 1994). One former US intelligence officer will complain in 1999, “Why was he a member of that delegation? The Saudis are supposed to be our allies. They told us he was persona non grata, and yet here he was working the crowds on an official visit.” Bin Laden strengthens ties with the Albanian secret service, with an eye to assisting the fight against Serbia in the neighboring country of Bosnia. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 180-181; Washington Times, 9/18/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 12/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Albania

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In 1994 Albanian Premier Sali Berisha reportedly helps bin Laden set up a network in Albania through Saudi charity fronts after bin Laden visits Albania (see Shortly After April 9, 1994). Berisha later uses his property to train the KLA militant group. [London Times, 11/29/1998]

Entity Tags: Sali Berisha, Kosovo Liberation Army, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

According to a report in Jane’s Intelligence Review, Albanian narco-terrorism, gun-running, and smuggling organizations are becoming a dominant economic, political, and military force in the Balkans. Jane’s expresses the concern that if left unchecked, the Albanian mafia will become powerful enough to control one or more states in the region. Albanian President Sali Berisha “is now widely suspected of tolerating and even directly profiting from drug-trafficking for wider political-economic reasons, namely the financing of secessionist political parties and other groupings in Kosovo and Macedonia.” [Jane's Intelligence Review, 2/1/1995]

Entity Tags: Albania, Sali Berisha

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Sali Berisha.Sali Berisha. [Source: Albanian government website]The regime of Sali Berisha in Albania collapses due to a widespread failed pyramid scheme that greatly angers the population. This leads to the looting of 10,000 heavy weapons from government armories and 100,000 passports. Many of these are taken by al-Qaeda. [Ottawa Citizen, 12/15/2001] Subsequently, organized crime has a very strong influence in Albania. For example, in 1999, when Albanian police confiscate speed boats being used in smuggling operations, the angry gang barricades the main coastal road, beats up the police chief, and retakes the boats. Police, even though backed up by the Army, do not dare to intervene. [Reuters, 1/23/1999] Thousands of Albanians are driven into hiding to try to escape vendettas and blood-feuds. [Guardian, 9/30/1998] After the collapse of his government, Berisha turns his family farm into a KLA base. [New York Times, 6/9/1998] He will become prime minister in Albania in 2005.

Entity Tags: Sali Berisha, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The US and NATO provide the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) with arms and training. [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The Greek press reports that Afghan mujaheddin are entering Albania in large numbers. Osama bin Laden is named as one of those who have organized groups to fight in Kosovo to fight alongside the Albanians. According to the Arab-language news service Al-Hayat, an Albanian commander in Kosovo code named Monia is directly linked to bin Laden, and commands a force that includes at least 100 mujaheddin. An Interpol report released on October 23, 2001 also reveals that a senior bin Laden associate led an elite KLA fighting unit in Kosovo. According to the report, bin Laden also maintained extensive ties with the Albanian mafia. [Ottawa Citizen, 12/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) says it will send representatives to the peace talks in Rambouillet, France on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). Representing the KLA, will be Supreme Commander Hashim Thaci, also known as “The Snake,” and four other Kosovars, all militants. [BBC, 2/3/1999] On Febuary 4, the Yugoslav government (essentially Serbia) agrees to join the peace talks. [US Information Agency, 4/13/1999]

Entity Tags: Hashim Thaci, Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

An unnamed European intelligence agency secretly reports that al-Qaeda has provided financial support for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Documents found on a KLA militant further reveal that he has been smuggling combatants into Kosovo, mostly Saudis with Albanian passports. The report further notes that the KLA is largely financed by drug trafficking, bringing drugs from Afghanistan into Europe with the blessing of the Taliban. [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 71-72]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The US-led NATO alliance begins bombing Serbia in March, pressuring it to withdraw from Kosovo, which is part of Serbia but ethnically dominated by Albanians (see March 24, 1999). During the war, the US publicly denies working with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the dominant political group in Kosovo. However, it will later be revealed that the CIA works closely with the KLA, starting at least from late April 1999. At that time, the CIA and US Special Forces troops begin working with the KLA to defeat the Serbians. The KLA passes on useful information about Serbian positions, allowing NATO forces to bomb them. But since the KLA has a reputation for drug running, civilian atrocities, and links to al-Qaeda, the US military generally uses the Albanian army as an intermediary. KLA representatives meet daily with Albanian military officers in Albania, but CIA and US Army officers are usually present as well. In addition, there is a secret NATO operations center in the town of Kukes, Albania, near the border with Kosovo. Most of the KLA liaison work takes place there. US officials begin considering using the KLA as a light-infantry force if NATO needs to invade Kosovo with ground troops. But the war ends in June 1999 before that becomes necessary (see June 9, 1999). [Washington Post, 9/19/1999] The same month that the CIA begins working closely with the KLA, a European intelligence report indicates the KLA is being funded by al-Qaeda and drugs from Afghanistan (see April 1999).

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, US Special Forces, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

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