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Profile: Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)
Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Party of Labor of Albania’s newspaper, Zeri i Popullit, prints an article on April 8, condemning Yugoslavia’s police actions and the treatment of Yugoslav Albanians, and supporting the protest demands. It also says, “The London and Versailles Treaties, which settled the frontiers between Yugoslavia and Albania, can no longer be imposed to the detriment of the Albanian people.” PLA First Secretary Enver Hoxha may be the anonymous author of the article. A Zeri i Popullit article two weeks later says hundreds were killed, wounded, missing, or arrested, and that it is Albania’s right to condemn Yugoslavia’s repeated actions, which it has not done officially. Zeri i Popullit points to Yugoslavia’s charges about the treatment of Croats and Slovenes across its border in Carinthia, which the article compares to Albanian concerns about Kosovar Albanians. Albania denies seeking to annex Kosova. The Yugoslav government sees these articles as evidence that Albania is behind the demonstrations, after initially blaming domestic and Western sources. As a result, previously increasing economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries will be reduced. On April 29, Lazar Kolisevski, a member of the Yugoslav Presidency, presents a report to a meeting of the Presidency and the Federal Council for the Protection of the Constitutional Order, charging that the PLA caused the demonstrations, which were “hostile and counter-revolutionary,” and sought unification with Albania. Kolisevski calls nationalism the greatest threat to Yugoslavia and says “economic nationalism,” economic divisions between groups in Yugoslavia, is the main cause of friction, which a Zeri i Popullit article also pointed out.
Allegedly PLA-Linked Kosovar Groups - Several allegedly PLA-linked organizations will be blamed for the protests: the Revolutionary Movement of Albanian Unification (whose leader, Adam Demaci, has been in jail since 1975), the Red Popular Front (considered closer to the PLA), eight “irredentist” groups arrested before the events, and the Albanian Communist Marxist-Leninist Party in Yugoslavia (represented at the 8th Congress of the PLA, in September 1981, and having almost the same program as the PLA). Besides these “extremists,” Kosovo President Xhavid Nimami blames “Ballists” led by Abaz Ermeni and “Zogists” led by Leka Zog, Zog I’s son, and equates calls for “united Albanians” to “United Serbs,” etc., saying they would destroy Yugoslavia. In 1997 an anonymous high-ranking official will allege that a meeting of officials and professors was held in Tirana to propose inciting Kosovars to seek more rights. Albanian anti-communist scholar Paulin Kola will suggest that this was done to distract Albanians from economic problems caused by the break in relations with China in the late ‘70s. Others will allege that Albania’s Sigurimi security agency organized the demonstrations, through ties with Albanians in Western Europe, especially Switzerland. Some Kosovars will say they received support from Albanians, but not from the Albanian government. Kola will point to the alleged role of the ex-communist Socialist Party of Albania in the formation of the KLA in the ‘90s as evidence that Albania was behind the 1981 events. In 1992-1993 and 2001 interviews, Xhafer Shatri will tell Kola that he thought the March 1981 demonstrations were unplanned. On the other hand, Albania benefits from trade with Yugoslavia and Yugoslavia acts as a buffer against the USSR. Albania will repatriate 249 Kosovar Albanian asylum seekers back to Yugoslavia from 1981 to 1983.
Alleged Soviet Involvement - In late April, Yugoslavia’s Fadil Hoxha says “Greater Albanian nationalism” would destabilize the Balkans as much as other nationalisms, and implies that the USSR wants to destabilize the Balkans to undermine the Non-Aligned Movement. In June, Zeri i Popullit will accuse the USSR of trying to use Serbia’s crackdown to cause problems in the Balkans and NATO. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 202-207, 211-212; Kola, 2003, pp. 158-160, 163]
Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Non-Aligned Movement, Leka Zog, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Lazar Kolisevski, Kosovo Liberation Army, Adem Demaci, Enver Hoxha, Fadil Hoxha, Party of Labor of Albania, Red Popular Front, Revolutionary Movement of Albanian Unification, Yugoslavia, Zeri i Popullit, Abaz Ermeni, Albania, Xhavid Nimami, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Xhafer Shatri, Sigurimi, Socialist Party of Albania, Ahmet Zog I
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs Richard Holbrooke persuades the State Department to license Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor, to provide training to the Croatian army. [Ripley, 1999, pp. 81-82, 90; Scotsman, 3/2/2001] According to MPRI information officer Joseph Allred, the firm exists so that “the US can have influence as part of its national strategy on other nations without employing its own army.” [New American, 5/10/1999; Serbian National Federation, 8/1999]
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]
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; Corriere della Sera (Milan), 10/15/1998; Corriere della Sera (Milan), 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 ]
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. [Mother Jones, 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.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 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.” [Mother Jones, 1/2000]
Having already entered into its controversial relationship with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the US gives in to the organization’s demands that it be removed from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 11/1/2001] Near the end of that same month, Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, says the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is an Islamic terrorist organization. [BBC, 6/28/1998] “We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK [KLA] is, without any question, a terrorist group.” [Agence France-Presse, 4/1999] “I know a terrorist when I see one and these men are terrorists,” he says. [BBC, 6/28/1998]
Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, says the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is an Islamic terrorist organization. [BBC, 6/28/1998]
“We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK [KLA] is, without any question, a terrorist group.”
[Agence France-Presse, 4/1999]
“I know a terrorist when I see one and these men are terrorists,” he says. [BBC, 6/28/1998]
A list of Al Taqwa Bank shareholders as of December 1999 includes Khaldoun Dia Eddine, who is also president of the Committee to Aid Refugees of Bosnia-Herzegovina. [Salon, 3/15/2002] He is said to work closely with Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, one of the top Al Taqwa figures. In 1999, it is alleged that Eddine was also the head of the Gulf Office, an Al Taqwa subsidiary that the Italian government investigated in 1994 for its ties with the GIA, an Algerian militant group connected to al-Qaeda. Eddine also works for Mercy International, a Muslim charity with numerous ties to al-Qaeda and also alleged ties to the CIA (see 1989 and After). By 1999, Eddine is managing the Mercy International office in Tirana, Albania, and is said to be managing “one of the principal channels for weapons delivery for the Kosovo Liberation Army, with the financial and logistic support of the Muslim World League.” [Labeviere, 1999] There is no indication that Eddine is ever later arrested or charged with any crime.
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) [London Times, 3/24/1999]
Morton Abramowitz writes a column in the Wall Street Journal calling for a drastic change in US policy toward Kosovo. Abramowitz is highly influential with the US foreign policy elite (see 1991-1997). He argues that the US should support full independence for Kosovo and outlines options the US should consider including bombing Serbia, removing Milosevic, arming and training the KLA, and turning Kosovo into a NATO protectorate through the use of ground forces. [American Spectator, 6/1999]
From left to right: Hashim Thaci, UCK leader; Bernard Kouchner, UN Administrator of Kosovo; Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, KFOR Commander; Agim Ceku, Commander of KLA; Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO Commander.
[Source: Vojin Joksimovich]General Agim Ceku retires his commission in the Croatian armed forces to take command of the KLA. Despite the fact that Ceku is an indicted war criminal (see 1993-1995), this move has the blessing of the US State Department. As head of the KLA, Ceku is viewed by NATO and presented in the mainstream media as a loyal and valuable NATO ally. He is a frequent participant in NATO briefings along with top generals such as Wesley Clark and Michael Jackson. [Taylor, 2002, pp. 164] Ceku will be elected prime minister of Kosovo in 2006 despite the still pending war crimes charges (see March 2006).
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) invites foreign journalists to the scene of an alleged Serb massacre of some 45 Albanians in Raqak, Kosovo. Later, at 12 noon, the Kosovo Verification Mission leader, US diplomat William Walker, leads another group of news reporters to the scene. The story makes international headlines and is later used to justify NATO bombings. The New York Times will call this the “turning point” in NATO’s decision to wage war on Yugoslavia. But the claim that a massacre occurred is quickly called into question. It turns out that an Associated Press television crew—at the invitation of Yugoslav authorities—had filmed a shootout the day before between the Yugoslav police and fighters with the KLA at the location where the alleged massacre took place. They say that upon arriving in Raqak most of the villagers had already fled the expected gun battle between the KLA and the police. They also report that they did not witness any executions or massacres of civilians. Furthermore, after the firefight, at about 3:30 p.m., the Yugoslav police announced in a press conference that they had killed 15 KLA “terrorists” in Raqak. And then about an hour later, at 4:40 p.m., and then again at 6 p.m., a Le Monde reporter visited the scene and reported that he saw no indications that a massacre of civilians had occurred. Finally, the foreign journalists escorted to Raqak by the KLA found no shell casings lying around the scene. “What is disturbing,” correspondent Renaud Girard remarks, “is that the pictures filmed by the Associated Press journalists radically contradict Walker’s accusations.” Belarussian and Finnish forensic experts later investigate the claims but are unable to verify that a massacre actually took place. [Le Monde (Paris), 1/21/1999; Le Monde (Paris), 1/21/1999; Covert Action Quarterly, 6/1999]
The six-nation “Contact Group,” comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia, meets in London to discuss a resolution to the Kosovo conflict. At the conclusion of the conference, they issue an ultimatum to the Yugoslavian government and Kosovar Albanians, requiring them to attend peace talks in Rambouillet, France beginning on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). [Press Association (London), 1/29/1999; BBC, 1/30/1999] However, It appears only the KLA is invited to speak on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians, not Ibrahim Rugova—the only democratically elected leader of Kosovo—or any other member of the Kosovo Democratic League. “Western diplomats have described Rugova as increasingly irrelevant, while the key players in Kosovo are now the rebels of the KLA,” the BBC reports. [BBC, 1/31/1999]
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]
In Rambouillet, France, the Kosovo peace talks are held between the Kosovar Albanians and the Serbs under the auspices of the “Contact Group,” which is comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. [Guardian, 2/15/1999; New York Times, 4/1/1999; CNN, 4/6/1999] Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrives in Rambouillet during the latter half of the talks and brings both sides together for the first time. The Guardian reports that she has “‘abrupt’ and largely one-sided exchanges with the Serbian president, Milan Milutinovic,” and declares “that the threat of NATO attacks ‘remains real.’” The British, on the other hand, apparently disagree with Albright, believing that the use of force is not necessary. The Russians strongly oppose any military action. [Guardian, 2/15/1999; Guardian, 2/24/1999] Albright also works closely with the Kosovar Albanians, who are being advised by Americans Morton Abramowitz, Marshall Harris, and Paul Williams. [Christian Science Monitor, 2/10/1999] Albright offers the Albanians “incentives intended to show that Washington is a friend of Kosovo,” the New York Times reports. “Officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army would… be sent to the United States for training in transforming themselves from a guerrilla group into a police force or a political entity.”
[New York Times, 2/24/1999] Madeleine Albright shakes hands with “freedom fighter” 20-year-old Hashim Thaci, a leader of the KLA [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 11/1/2001] who had previously been labeled a terrorist leader by the US. [Chicago Tribune, 7/11/2004] Toward the end of the conference, the Contact Group provides the two parties with a final draft of the Rambouillet Accords. The Kosovars have a number of issues with the document, especially a provision that would require them to disarm. Another problem is that the proposed accords would not require a referendum on the independence of Kosovo. Notwithstanding these reservations, the Kosovars do not reject the document outright. Rather they say they will accept the agreement after holding “technical consultations” back in Kosovo. The Serbs also refuse to sign the accords because it would give NATO almost complete control of the Yugoslavia. [Guardian, 2/24/1999] Article 8 of Appendix B, titled “Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force,” states: “NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.” Article 6 would grant NATO troops operating in Yugoslavia immunity from prosecution, and Article 10 would allow NATO to have cost-free access to all streets, airports, and ports. [Rambouillet Accords: Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, 2/23/1999] As the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung notes, “This passage sounds like a surrender treaty following a war that was lost… The fact that Yugoslavian President Milosevic did not want to sign such a paper is understandable.”
[Chicago Tribune, 7/11/2004] With neither party agreeing to sign the accords, the talks end with plans to reconvene on March 15 (see March 15, 1999). [Guardian, 2/24/1999]
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]
The US State Department temporarily suspends cooperation between the Bosnian army and the US private mercenary company MPRI. No official reason is given, but media reports indicate that the Bosnian Muslims being trained by MPRI were caught sending weapons to Muslim rebels in the regions of Kosovo and Sandzak in Serbia. Supposedly, millions of dollars of weapons were smuggled to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo. [BBC, 4/5/1999; Progressive, 8/1/1999; Center for Public Integrity, 10/28/2002]
Speaking in front of a small public rally in Washington in favor of an independent Kosovo, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) says that the “United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same human values and principles.… Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values.” [Washington Post, 4/28/1999]
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).
The KLA launches an offensive in Macedonia. Many of the KLA commanders involved in the offensive also held appointments in the UN’s Kosovo Protection Corps. The regular Macedonian security forces are forced to withdraw, and the Macedonian military and elite police forces engage the KLA. [Taylor, 2002, pp. 119-120]
At the end of June, the KLA had captured the Macedonian town of Aracinovo on the outskirts of Kopje. However, within a few days 500 KLA fighters are surrounded by the Macedonian military and elite police units, cut off from re-supply and hopelessly outnumbered. The Macedonian forces are closing in and could easily capture or kill the entire KLA force there, except NATO intervenes. NATO brokers a deal with the Macedonians, under the threat of extreme economic sanctions, under which NATO would oversee the demilitarization of Aracinovo and transport the captured KLA members to internment camps in Kosovo. US troops then enter Aracinovo with 15 buses to evacuate the trapped KLA fighters. They are escorted safely away from the surrounding Macedonian forces, and then, contrary to the agreement, the KLA members are released to rejoin other KLA forces and fight again. The American forces involved in the rescue include 16 members of MPRI (see August 1994)
(see 1999), who had been assisting and training the KLA forces. [Taylor, 2002, pp. 120-121]
By mid-July the Macedonian police and military are no longer able to contain the KLA in the Tetovo-Kosovo corridor. The fighting intensifies and the KLA establishes secure bases in this region. On the evening of July 15, local KLA commanders notify Macedonian residents that they must flee or face execution. It is estimated that over 30,000 Macedonians are forced to flee their homes and become refugees. [Taylor, 2002, pp. 121-122]
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