Kosovo Liberation Army: Wikis


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Kosovo Liberation Army
(Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës)
Participant in Kosovo War
Active 1996[1] - 1999[2] (formed in 1990[3] but relatively passive until 1996)
Leaders Adem Jashari  
Hashim Thaçi
Agim Çeku
Fatmir Limaj
Ramush Haradinaj
Sami Lushtaku
Rrustem Mustafa
Area of
Strength 2-3,000 to max 20,000[4]
Became Kosovo Protection Corps
Allies Albania, NATO
Opponents Yugoslavia
Battles/wars Kosovo War :
*Battle of Junik
*Attack on Prekaz
*Battle of Belacevac Mine
*Battle of Lodja
*Battle of Glodjane
*Battle of Košare

The Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA (Albanian: Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës or UÇK) was a Kosovar Albanian terrorist,[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] secessionist and irredentist[14] guerrilla organization which sought the separation of Kosovo from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Its campaign against Serbian security forces precipitated a major Yugoslav military crackdown which led to the Kosovo War of 1998-1999. Military intervention by Yugoslav security forces led by Slobodan Milosevic and Serb militias within Kosovo prompted an exodus of Kosovar Albanians and a refugee crisis that eventually caused NATO to intervene militarily in order to stop what was widely identified (by NATO nations, human rights organizations, the EU, and western media) as an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing.[15][16] Later the UN Hague Court legally found that Serbia “use[d] violence and terror to force a significant number of Kosovo Albanians from their homes and across the borders, in order for the state authorities to maintain control over Kosovo” by means of "The commission of murder, sexual assault" and other war crimes.[17]

The conflict was ended by a negotiated agreement that requested the UN to take over the administration and political process, including local institutional building and determine the final status of the region.

The KLA was regarded by the US as a terrorist group until 1998 when it was de-listed,[18][19] and then the UK and the US lobbied France to do the same.[20] The US then cultivated diplomatic relationships with the KLA leaders.[19][21] In 1999 the KLA was officially disbanded and their members entered other terrorist groups such as various Albanian Macedonian rebels[22], the UCPMB in the Preševo Valley region[23] and UNMIK instituted NGOs within Kosovo such as the the Kosovo Protection Corps (in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244 which required the establishment of a civilian emergency protection body to replace the former KLA) and Kosovo Police Force[24]. Some of the Kosovo Liberation Army leadership opted to enter politics, and by taking advantage of the 1999 confusion they still lead the Albanian faction of the partially recognized Kosovan government.[25]



First attacks

In February 1996 the KLA undertook a series of attacks against targets that included police stations, Serb government offices and Serb civilians in Western Kosovo.[26] The Serbian authorities denounced it as a terrorist organization and increased the number of security forces in the region. This had the counter-productive effect of boosting the credibility of the embryonic KLA among the Kosovo Albanian population.

According to Roland Keith, the field office director of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission[27]:

Upon my arrival the war increasingly evolved into a mid intensity conflict as ambushes, the encroachment of critical lines of communication and the [KLA] kidnapping of security forces resulted in a significant increase in government casualties which in turn led to major Yugoslavian reprisal security operations... By the beginning of March these terror and counter-terror operations led to the inhabitants of numerous villages fleeing, or being dispersed to either other villages, cities or the hills to seek refuge... The situation was clearly that KLA provocations, as personally witnessed in ambushes of security patrols which inflicted fatal and other casualties, were clear violations of the previous October's agreement [and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1199].

According to the report of the US Committee for Refugees[28]:

Kosovo Liberation Army...attacks aimed at trying to 'cleanse' Kosovo of its ethnic Serb population.

The Yugoslav Red Cross had estimated a total of 30,000 refugees and IDPs from Kosovo, most of whom were Serb. The UNHCR estimated the figure at 55,000 refugees who had fled to Montenegro and Central Serbia, most of whom were Kosovo Serbs:

Over 90 mixed villages in Kosovo have now been emptied of Serb inhabitants and other Serbs continue leaving, either to be displaced in other parts of Kosovo or fleeing into central Serbia.

The NATO North Atlantic Council had stressed that KLA was "the main initiator of the violence" and that it had "launched what appears to be a deliberate campaign of provocation".

Foreign volunteers

The KLA included in its ranks foreign volunteers from Sweden, Belgium, the UK, Germany, the US [29], and France [30]. 30-40 Volunteers from the Croatian Forces International Volunteers Association also participated in training KLA troops [31].

The KLA usually rewarded after service its international volunteers with a passage home, as a gesture of thanks. [32]

Aftermath (post-1999)

After the war, the KLA was transformed into the Kosovo Protection Corps, which worked alongside NATO forces patrolling the province.[33] The KLA legacy remains powerful within Kosovo. Its former members still play a major role in Kosovar politics.

Its former political head Hashim Thaçi is now the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and the Prime Minister of Kosovo since January 2008.

The KLA's former military head, Agim Çeku, after the war became Prime Minister of Kosovo. The move caused some controversy in Serbia, as Belgrade regarded him as a war criminal, though he was never indicted by the Hague tribunal [34].

Ramush Haradinaj, a former KLA commander, served briefly as Prime Minister of Kosovo before he willfully turned himself up to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague to stand trial on accusations against him for war crimes [35] and was acquitted of all charges.

Fatmir Limaj, one of the senior commanders of the KLA to also went through a trial process in The Hague, and was acquitted of all charges in November 2005 [36]. He is now minister of transport and telecommunication.

Hajredin Bala, an ex-KLA prison guard, was sentenced on 30 November 2005 to 13 years’ imprisonment for the mistreatment of three prisoners at the Llapushnik prison camp, his personal role in the "maintenance and enforcement of the inhumane conditions" of the camp, aiding the torture of one prisoner, and of participating in the murder of nine prisoners from the camp who were marched to the Berisha Mountains on 25 or 26 July 1998 and killed. Bala appealed the sentence and the appeal is still pending. [37]

Foreign support

In 1996 a British weekly newspaper, The European, carried an article by a French expert stating that "German civil and military intelligence services have been involved in training and equipping the rebels with the aim of cementing German influence in the Balkan area. (...) The birth of the KLA in 1996 coincided with the appointment of Hansjoerg Geiger as the new head of the BND (German secret Service). (...) The BND men were in charge of selecting recruits for the KLA command structure from the 500,000 Kosovars in Albania." [38] Former senior adviser to the German parliament Matthias Küntzel tried to prove later on that German secret diplomacy had been instrumental in helping the KLA since its creation.[39]

James Bissett, Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania in 1990 writes that "media reports" indicate that "as early as 1998, the Central Intelligence Agency assisted by the British Special Air Service were arming and training Kosovo Liberation Army members in Albania to foment armed rebellion in Kosovo. (...) The hope was that with Kosovo in flames NATO could intervene ..." [40] According to Tim Judah, KLA representatives had already met with American, British, and Swiss intelligence agencies in 1996, and possibly "several years earlier" [41] and according to The Sunday Times, "American intelligence agents have admitted they helped to train the Kosovo Liberation Army before NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia" [2]. Intelligence agents denied, however, that they were involved in arming the KLA.

Reported abuses

There have been reports of war crimes committed by the KLA both during and after the conflict. These have been directed against both Serbs, other ethnic minorities (principally Roma) and against ethnic Albanians accused of collaborating with the Serb authorities. [42] According to a 2001 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW):

The KLA was responsible for serious abuses… including abductions and murders of Serbs and ethnic Albanians considered collaborators with the state. Elements of the KLA are also responsible for post-conflict attacks on Serbs, Roma, and other non-Albanians, as well as ethnic Albanian political rivals... widespread and systematic burning and looting of homes belonging to Serbs, Roma, and other minorities and the destruction of Orthodox churches and monasteries... combined with harassment and intimidation designed to force people from their homes and communities... elements of the KLA are clearly responsible for many of these crimes. [43]

The KLA engaged in tit-for-tat attacks with Serbian nationalists in Kosovo, reprisals against ethnic Albanians who "collaborated" with the Serbian government, and bombed police stations and cafes known to be frequented by Serb officials, killing innocent civilians in the process. Most of its activities were funded by drug running, though its ties to community groups and Albanian exiles gave it local popularity.[33]

The Yugoslav authorities regarded the KLA a terrorist group[10], though many European governments did not. The Serbian government also reported that the KLA had killed and kidnapped no fewer than 3,276 civilians of various ethnic descriptions including some Albanians.[44] President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, described the KLA as, "without any questions, a terrorist group."[33]

The exact number of victims of the KLA is not known. According to a Serbian government report, from January 1, 1998 to June 10, 1999 the KLA killed 988 people and kidnapped 287; in the period from June 10, 1999 to November 11, 2001, when NATO took control in Kosovo, 847 were reported to have been killed and 1,154 kidnapped. This comprised both civilians and security force personnel: of those killed in the first period, 335 were civilians, 351 soldiers, 230 police and 72 were unidentified; by nationality, 87 of killed civilians were Serbs, 230 Albanians, and 18 of other nationalities. Following the withdrawal of Serbian and Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo in June 1999, all casualties were civilians, the vast majority being Serbs.[44] According to Human Rights Watch, as “many as one thousand Serbs and Roma have been murdered or have gone missing since June 12, 1999.” [3]

The Podujevo bus bombing was a terrorist attack on a civilian bus in a Serb-populated area near the town of Podujevo, Kosovo on 16 February 2001 by Kosovar Albanian extremists.

Carla Del Ponte, a long-time ICTY chief prosecutor, claimed in her book The Hunt: Me and the War Criminals that there were instances of organ trafficking in 1999 after the end of the Kosovo War. These allegations were dismissed by Kosovan and Albanian authorities.[45] The allegations have been rejected by Kosovar authorities as fabrications while the ICTY has said "no reliable evidence had been obtained to substantiate the allegations" [46]

Drug traffic

The U.S. State Department indicated that the KLA was financing its operations with money from the international heroin trade and loans from Islamic countries and individuals, among them allegedly Osama bin Laden.[18][19]

According to Michael Levine, the former official of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the KLA was tied in with every known Middle and Far Eastern drug cartel.[47]

Status as terrorist group

The Yugoslav authorities regarded the KLA a terrorist group[10]. The U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization until 1998,[18][19] and President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, described that same year the KLA as, "without any questions, a terrorist group".[21][48] Around 1998, some months before the war of March 1999, the US gevernment removed the KLA from its list of terrorist organizations, and they approached the KLA leaders to make them interlocutors with the Serbs.[12][19] France didn't delist it until late 1998, after strong US and UK lobbying.[20] During the war, the KLA troops collaborated with the NATO troops, and they were qualified by the NATO as "freedom fighters".[19] In late 1999 the KLA was disbanded and its members entered the Kosovo Protection Corps.[19] KLA is still present in the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base list of terrorist groups,[10] and is listed as an inactive terrorist organization by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism from the Homeland Security.[49]

See also


  1. ^ https://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/1999/ps020299.html
  2. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/676196.stm
  3. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kv.html
  4. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/kla.htm
  5. ^ http://judiciary.house.gov/Legacy/muts1213.htm
  6. ^ http://www.core-hamburg.de/documents/CORE_Working_Paper_14.pdf
  7. ^ http://etd.ohiolink.edu/send-pdf.cgi/Chen%20PingKuei.pdf?acc_num=ohiou1204826768
  8. ^ http://members.multimania.co.uk/miedzynarody/Materials/mw_wyklad_AZN_five+.doc
  9. ^ http://dk.fdv.uni-lj.si/dela/Fras-Petra.PDF
  10. ^ a b c d MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base using a web.archive.org copy of 2 April 2007
  11. ^ "Terrorist Organization Profile: Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)". National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. http://www.start.umd.edu/data/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=3517. 
  12. ^ a b First do no harm: humanitarian intervention and the destruction of Yugoslavia By David N. Gibbs, Page 181
  13. ^ America's recent encounters with nation building By Gary Dempsey, Roger W. Fontaine, Cato Institute, Page 139
  14. ^ Dilemmas of democracy & dictatorship: place, time, and ideology in global perspective By Michael Radu, Page 122
  15. ^ UNDER ORDERS: War Crimes in Kosovo - 4. March-June 1999: An Overview
  16. ^ Conflict In The Balkans: The Overview; Nato Authorizes Bomb Strikes; Primakov, In Air, Skips U.S. Visit - New York Times
  17. ^ http://www.icty.org/sid/10070
  18. ^ a b c War on terrorism skipped the KLA National Post, 13 November 2001, Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG)
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Reveron, 2006, pages 68-69
  20. ^ a b Reveron, 2006, page 82 (footnote 24 from page 69)
  21. ^ a b The Kosovo Liberation Army: Does Clinton Policy Support Group with Terror, Drug Ties? From 'Terrorists' to 'Partners', presentation of the Republican Policy Committee to the U.S. Senate, 1999-03-31
  22. ^ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/kla-veterans-linked-to-latest--bout-of-violence-in-macedonia-686995.html
  23. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/676196.stm
  24. ^ Kosovo Liberation Army: the inside story of an insurgency, By Henry H. Perritt
  25. ^ Kosovo Liberation Army: the inside story of an insurgency, By Henry H. Perritt
  26. ^ "Unknown Albanian 'liberation army' claims attacks", Agence France Presse, February 17, 1996
  27. ^ "Failure of Diplomacy, Returning OSCE Human Rights Monitor Offers A View From the Ground in Kosovo", The Democrat, May 1999, Roland Keith
  28. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=skdoYDs1e8AC&pg=PA176&lpg=PA176&dq=Roland+Keith+William+Walker&source=bl&ots=7hg2DoThWQ&sig=CEiokh-juqblP3h8wm_5KA_cMRk&hl=en&ei=LYZRS8abKsXH4gaMkIGYCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Roland%20Keith%20William%20Walker&f=false
  29. ^ http://www.iwpr.net/?p=bcr&s=f&o=248236&apc_state=henibcr5b891da66b3662d9a16bf0d86e537b3b
  30. ^ http://www.aimpress.ch/dyn/trae/archive/data/199904/90420-001-trae-tir.htm
  31. ^ http://www.cfiva.org/cfiva/history/index.cfm
  32. ^ http://www.cfiva.org/cfiva/news/index.cfm?fuseaction=showItem&newsID=13
  33. ^ a b c Council on Foreign Relations, Terrorist Groups and Political Legitimacy, 16.03.2006
  34. ^ http://www.motherjones.com/news/special_reports/total_coverage/kosovo/ceku.html
  35. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4337085.stm
  36. ^ http://www.trial-ch.org/trialwatch/profiles/en/legalprocedures/p145.html
  37. ^ [1] The Hague, 21 April 2006 - Appeals Chamber
  38. ^ FALLGOT, Roger (1998): "How Germany Backed KLA", in The European, 21 September-27 September. pp 21-27.
  39. ^ KUNTZEL, Matthias (2002): Der Weg in den Krieg. Deutschland, die Nato und das Kosovo (The Road to War. Germany, Nato and Kosovo). Elefanten Press. Berlin, Germany. pp. 59-64.
  40. ^ James Bissett
  41. ^ JUDAH, Tim (2002): Kosovo: War and Revenge. Yale University Press. New Haven, USA. Page 120
  42. ^ Human Rights Watch, UNDER ORDERS:War Crimes in Kosovo
  43. ^ UNDER ORDERS:War Crimes in Kosovo, executive summary
  44. ^ a b .Victims of the Albanian terrorism in Kosovo-Metohija (Killed, kidnapped, and missing persons, January 1998 - November 2001)
    Žrtve albanskog terorizma na Kosovu i Metohiji (Ubijena, oteta i nestala lica, januar 1998 - novembar 2001)
  45. ^ The Daily Telegraph, Serb prisoners 'were stripped of their organs in Kosovo war', 14.04.2008
  46. ^ http://www.un.org/icty/briefing/2008/pb080416.htm
  47. ^ Leavitt, Fred (2003). The real drug abusers. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 198. ISBN 9780742525184. 
  48. ^ Terrorist Groups and Political Legitimacy Council on Foreign Relations
  49. ^ "Terrorist Organization Profile: Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)". National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. http://www.start.umd.edu/data/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=3517. 


General references

  • "KLA Action Fuelled NATO Victory", Jane's Defence Weekly, 16 June 1999
  • "The KLA: Braced to Defend and Control", Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 April 1999
  • "Kosovo's Ceasefire Crumbles As Serb Military Retaliates", Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 February 1999
  • "Another Balkan Bloodbath? Part Two", Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 March 1998
  • "Albanians Attack Serb Targets", Jane's Defence Weekly, 4 September 1996
  • "The Kosovo Liberation Army and the Future of Kosovo", James H. Anderson and James Phillips, 13 May 1999, Heritage Foundation, Heritage Foundation (Washington, USA)

External links

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