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Context of '1997: KLA Surfaces to Resist Serbian Persecution of Albanians'

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Albanian Mafia and KLA take control of Balkan route heroin trafficking from Turkish criminal groups. In 1998, Italian police are able to arrest several major traffickers. Many of the criminals involved are also activists for the Kosovo independence movement, and some are KLA leaders. Much of the money is funneled through the KLA (see 1997), which is also receiving support and protection from the US. The Islamic influence is obvious in the drug operations, which for example shut down during the month of Ramadan. Intercepted telephone messages speak of the desire “to submerge Christian infidels in drugs.” (Agence France-Presse 6/9/1998; Ruscica 10/15/1998; Works 1/19/1999) Testifying to Congress in December 2000, Interpol Assistant Director Ralph Mutschke states that “Albanian organized crime groups are hybrid organizations, often involved both in criminal activity of an organized nature and in political activities, mainly relating to Kosovo. There is evidence that the political and criminal activities are deeply intertwined.” Mutschke also says that there is also strong evidence that bin Laden is involved in funding and organizing criminal activity through links to the Albanian mafia and the KLA.(see Early 1999) (US Congress 12/13/2000 pdf file)

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerges to resist Serbia’s campaign against Yugoslavia’s Albanian population. The force is financed by Albanian expatriates and Kosovar smugglers (see 1996-1999) (see Early 1999). According to news reports, the KLA receives some $1.5 billion in drug and arms smuggling profits from Kosovar Albanian traffickers each year. (Klebnikov 1/2000) The US Drug Enforcement Agency office in Rome tells the Philadelphia Inquirer in March 1999 that the KLA is “financing [its] war through drug trafficking activities, weapons trafficking, and the trafficking of other illegal goods, as well as contributions of their countrymen working abroad.” (Fleishman 3/15/1999) Less than a year later, Mother Jones magazine will report that it obtained a congressional briefing paper which states: “We would be remiss to dismiss allegations that between 30 and 50 percent of the KLA’s money comes from drugs.” (Klebnikov 1/2000)

The US and NATO provide the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) with arms and training. (Kurop 11/1/2001)

The police forces of three Western European countries, as well as Europol, the European police authority, are separately investigating a growing pool of evidence that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is being funded by drug money. And on March 24, 1999, the London Times reports that “Europol… is preparing a report for European interior and justice ministers on a connection between the KLA and Albanian drug gangs.” (see 1996-1999) (Boyles and Wright 3/24/1999)

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)

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)


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