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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]
A joint surveillance operation conducted by the CIA and Albanian intelligence identifies an Islamic Jihad cell that is allegedly planning to bomb the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania’s capital. The cell was created in the early 1990s by Mohammed al-Zawahiri, brother of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The operation intercepts lengthy discussions between the cell and Ayman. [New Yorker, 2/8/2005; Wright, 2006, pp. 269] At the behest of the US government, Egypt, which is co-operating with the US over renditions (see Summer 1995), issues an arrest warrant for Shawki Salama Attiya, one of the militants in the cell. Albanian forces then arrest Attiya and four of the other suspected militants. A sixth suspect is killed, but two more escape. The men are taken to an abandoned airbase, where they are interrogated by the CIA, and then flown by a CIA-chartered plane to Cairo, Egypt, for further interrogation. The men are tortured after arriving in Egypt:
Ahmed Saleh is suspended from the ceiling and given electric shocks; he is later hanged for a conviction resulting from a trial held in his absence;
Mohamed Hassan Tita is hung from his wrists and given electric shocks to his feet and back;
Attiya is given electric shocks to his genitals, suspended by his limbs and made to stand for hours in filthy water up to his knees;
Ahmed al-Naggar is kept in a room for 35 days with water up to his knees, and has electric shocks to his nipples and penis; he is later hanged for an offence for which he was convicted in absentia;
Essam Abdel-Tawwab will also describe more torture for which prosecutors later find “recovered wounds.”
On August 5, 1998, a letter by Ayman al-Zawahiri will be published that threatens retaliation for the Albanian abductions (see August 5, 1998). Two US embassies in Africa will be bombed two days later (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [Washington Post, 3/11/2002, pp. A01; New Yorker, 2/8/2005; Grey, 2007, pp. 128] The US State Department will later speculate that the timing of the embassy bombings was in fact in retaliation for these arrests. [Ottawa Citizen, 12/15/2001]
Entity Tags: Mohamed Hassan Tita, Shawki Salama Attiya, Mohammed al-Zawahiri, Albania, Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Saleh, Ahmed al-Naggar, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Essam Abdel-Tawwab, Islamic Jihad
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle
The Islamic Jihad, a militant group that has joined forces with al-Qaeda, issues a statement threatening to retaliate against the US for its involvement rounding up an Islamic Jihad cell in Albania (see Summer 1998). It is believed Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote the statement, which says, “We wish to inform the Americans… of preparations for a response which we hope they read with care, because we shall write it with the help of God in the language they understand.” The bombing of two US embassies in Africa follows two days later (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [CNN, 1/2001; Wright, 2006, pp. 269]
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 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]
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).
A large group of Islamic Jihad operatives are sentenced in Cairo in what becomes known as the “Trial of the Albanian Returnees.” Various disclosures are made at the trial about the way Islamic Jihad operated and how it provided support to al-Qaeda by forging travel documents, transferring money, and arranging communications. One of the revelations is that al-Qaeda has a key communication hub in Yemen. Despite this revelation (see Late 1998-Early 2002), al-Qaeda will continue to use it through 2001 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). The defendants were arrested not only in Egypt, but also in Albania, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, and the United Arab Emirates. In 1995, the CIA arranged a deal with Egypt to capture Islamic Jihad operatives around the world and send them to Egypt to be tortured and prosecuted (see Summer 1995). Eighty-seven of the defendants are convicted and ten are sentenced to death, including al-Zawahiri, who is tried in absentia. [New York Times, 11/21/2001] One of the convicted is Khaled Abu el-Dahab, who was operating a sleeper cell in California with double agent Ali Mohamed throughout the 1990’s (see 1987-1998). El-Dahab is sentenced to fifteen years in prison (see September 10, 1998). There are credible reports that many of the defendants confessed after being tortured in Egypt and Albania. [New York Times, 11/21/2001; Wright, 2006, pp. 269] The trial nearly eradicates the remnants of Islamic Jihad in Egypt and, according to some of the defendants, leaves only about forty members outside of Egypt. Al-Zawahiri and the other remaining members end up allying even closer to al-Qaeda. The two organizations will formally merge in early 2001 (see June 2001). [Wright, 2006, pp. 336]
After attacking a police station near Tetova and killing a police officer, the NLA releases a number of demands, including a constitutional amendment to declare that Macedonia is a state of both Macedonians and Albanians. Under the current constitution, Macedonia is a state of ethnic or Slavic Macedonians, and is inhabited by several minority groups, such as Albanians. The Albanian government believes 40 percent of the Macedonian population could be ethnically Albanian, while the 1981 Yugoslav census puts the figure at 19.7 percent. Macedonia’s 2002 census will say Albanians are 25.17 percent of the population. The NLA says “the uniform of the Macedonian occupiers will be targeted until the Albanian people is freed,” and also says, “We call upon the Macedonian police to go back to their families, and not waste their lives in the service of illusory Macedonian plans to dominate the Albanian majority.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 298-299, 377; Phillips, 2004, pp. 80]
A US and European operation to crack down on the trafficking of women in Europe for the sex trade has mixed success. Authorities conduct 20,558 raids between September 7 and September 16, 2002 across Central and Eastern Europe, arresting 293 traffickers and netting 237 victims. National and international police officers mount 71 raids on Bosnia nightclubs, hotels, and other locations and arrest seven trafficking suspects. In Bulgaria, 2,079 individual raids are conducted with 258 people identified as traffickers and 64 women as trafficking victims. Romania reports 2,597 raids, identifying 47 traffickers and 37 women classified as sex slaves. Other countries conducting raids include Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. [New York Times, 10/20/2002]
Washington, DC lobbying firm Piper Rudnick begins to garner support in the US Congress for the independence of Kosovo, as part of a $30,000 a month contract. The project, which “calls for it to relay Kosovo’s take on political, economic, human rights, intelligence, and security concerns in the Balkans,” is headed by former State Department official Marshall Harris. Previously, Harris had been a vice president at Freedom House, and the chairman of the Acquisition Support Institute, an organization that worked to facilitate the training of the Bosnian military. [Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, 2/5/2003]
The US freezes the assets of Abdul Latif Saleh, who is a citizen of both Jordan and Albania. Bin Laden allegedly gave Saleh $600,000 to create “extremist groups” in Albania, and Saleh is also said to be tied to the Islamic Jihad (which merged into al-Qaeda before 9/11). Saleh is also said to be associated with Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi (see October 12, 2001). The Treasury Department claims, “Saleh and Qadi had entered into several business partnerships with one another, including a sugar importing business, a medical enterprise and a construction business. Saleh served as the general manager of all of Qadi’s businesses in Albania and reportedly holds 10 percent of the Qadi Group’s investments in Albania.” [Associated Press, 9/19/2005; US Department of the Treasury, 9/19/2005] In the middle of 2004, the Swiss government also froze bank accounts worth $20 million of an unnamed Saudi businessman who is the former president of the Muwafaq Foundation over alleged al-Qaeda ties (see June 25, 2004). Al-Qadi was the founder and main investor of Muwafaq (see 1995-1998). [New York Times, 6/25/2004]
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions enters into force. In accordance with the ratification procedure, this happens three months after 30 countries deposited their instruments of ratification at UNESCO. UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura notes, “None of UNESCO’s other cultural conventions has been adopted by so many states in so little time.” The 30 countries are Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Peru, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Togo. By the time it comes into force, 22 more countries have deposited their ratification instruments at UNESCO. [UNESCO, 3/2007]
Fort Dix plot suspects. [Source: NBC]Six Muslim men are arrested in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and accused of plotting to attack the Army’s Fort Dix in New Jersey and massacre scores of US soldiers. FBI agent J. P. Weiss says “Today we dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets.” The FBI says the men had formed a “platoon” and had performed documented reconnaissance of their target. Although no evidence is uncovered linking the men to international terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, several of the men were willing to kill and die “in the name of Allah” according to court records. [Washington Post, 5/8/2007] Officials characterize the plot as “homegrown” and still in the planning stages. They state that no attack was imminent. [CBS News, 5/8/2007] The plotters are characterized as self-directed terrorist sympathizers. US Attorney Christopher J. Christie says, “Unlike other cases we’ve done, there was no clear ringleader. They all seemed to feed off each other. They were clearly guys turning to this element for inspiration. They wanted to be jihadists.” [Washington Post, 5/9/2007] The men are identified as ethnic Albanian Yugoslavian illegal immigrants Dritan Duka, his brothers Eljvir Duka and Shain Duka, legal Turkish immigrant Serdar Tartar, and US citizens Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer and Agron Abdullah. [Hurriyet, 5/8/2007] The FBI was first made aware of the alleged plot in January 2006. An unidentified Circuit City store clerk alerted police to a video that showed the men firing assault weapons, calling for jihad and yelling “God is great” in Arabic, according to officials. The video had been taken into the store in order to be transferred to DVD. The video came from firearms training in the Poconos, according to the indictment. [Washington Post, 5/9/2007] The FBI managed to implant an informant in the group of friends. This informant discovered 50 loaded 9mm magazines in Tartar’s car. [Hurriyet, 5/8/2007] Another informant infiltrated the group and was told of the plans to attack military installations. Shnewer was recorded as saying, “My intent is to hit a heavy concentration of soldiers… This is exactly what we are looking for. You hit four, five or six Humvees and light the whole place [up] and retreat completely without any losses.” [US Department of Justice, 5/8/2007 ] The men allegedly possessed jihadist videos and documents, including copies of the last will and testament of two of the 9/11 hijackers. [US Department of Justice, 5/8/2007 ] The target was allegedly decided by information gathered by one of the men, Tartar, who had access to Fort Dix from a job delivering pizzas there. [Hurriyet, 5/8/2007] The men are arrested when they attempt to buy AK-47s, M-16s, and other weapons from yet another FBI informant. [Washington Post, 5/8/2007] Most face possible life sentences. [Washington Post, 5/9/2007]
A group of German civil rights lawyers files a lawsuit against the German government, demanding that the government attempt to extradite 13 CIA agents named in the alleged kidnapping of a German citizen. Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was abducted in December 2003 at the Serbian-Macedonian border (see December 31, 2003-January 23, 2004 and January 23 - March 2004). He was flown by the CIA to a detention center in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and abused for months. El-Masri says he was released in Albania in May 2004, and told that he was the victim of mistaken identity (see May 29, 2004). No government or body has yet taken responsibility for el-Masri’s kidnapping and brutalization. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other US officials have refused to address the case, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the US acknowledged making a mistake with el-Masri.
Accountability - “We are demanding accountability” with the lawsuit, says attorney Wolfgang Kaleck. For himself, el-Masri says, “I just want the German government to acknowledge what happened to me.” An American judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by el-Masri against the CIA and three US corporations in 2006 (see May 18, 2006). In January 2007, German prosecutors issued warrants for the arrests of 13 CIA agents, accusing them of wrongfully imprisoning el-Masri and causing him serious bodily harm. The US Justice Department refused the requests, citing “American national interests,” and the German Ministry of Justice dropped the request. The lawsuit seeks to force the German government to reconsider extradition for the CIA agents.
Extraordinary Rendition - According to human rights organizations, el-Masri’s case is an example of “extraordinary rendition,” where the US takes suspected terrorists to foreign countries where they are subjected to abuse and torture. A criminal lawsuit against CIA officers in conjunction with the el-Masri case is also ongoing in Macedonia; that case could end up before the European Court of Human Rights. And the American Civil Liberties Union has also filed a petition on el-Masri’s behalf through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body that seeks to establish international laws. [Associated Press, 6/9/2008]
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