(Washington Post) Birth of a new rebel army
L'articolo che segue e' di venerdi', ed e' una miniera di informazioni.
Visto che si parlava di Ahmeti, qui fra l'altro c'e' la sua biografia fin
dall'inizio degli anni '80, che tra l'altro fa vedere come cio' che diceva
Die Presse (guerra preparata per due anni) si riferisce all'attuale NLA
(nell'articolo qui sotto si parla di una riunione a Vitina, Kosovo, nel
dicembre 1999), ma che la storia completa e' molto piu' antica.
Interessante che neppure qui si parla di Grande Albania, ma ci sono
riferimenti ad un Grande Kosovo, che in effetti e' un'ipotesi molto piu'
realistica (vedi i gruppi di fuoco che da quasi due anni operano nel sud
della Serbia, nella valle di Presevo). Nel testo fra l'altro si trova un
riferimento ad una cosa che avevo detto l'altro giorno, ovvero che gli
albanesi kosovari non hanno nessun feeling per l'Albania: c'e' un divario
enorme, e nel mio piccolo, avendo avuto a che fare sia con i kosovari sia
con gli albanesi d'Albania, comprendo benissimo il perche'. Sono due
Sarei molto tentata di tradurlo tutto, ci terrei che quante piu' persone
possibile avessero la possibilita' di accedere a queste informazioni, pero'
e lunghissimo ed io sono di nuovo in partenza per Croazia/Bosnia.
A proposito, cari antimperialisti, sulla nostra protesta contro un
possibile tentativo di "colonialismo nucleare" (come l'ha definito un amico
di Greenpeace da Praga) abbiamo avuto tonnellate di lettere di sostegno da
mezza Europa, ma la mia gente di Kostajnica e Bihac non mi ha parlato di
lettere di sostegno di gruppi italiani.... Non ho ancora avuto occasione di
vedere l'elenco completo (lo faro domani/dopodomani), quindi forse mi
Ohe', gente, dove siete ?????
Il bombardamento del 1999 e' stato una porcata, ma non vi pare il caso di
fare azioni anche sul presente (per impedire porcate future), oltre che sul
Birth of New Rebel Army
Macedonian Guerrilla Group Forming in Kosovo Poses Threat of Expanded
Conflict in Balkans
By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, March 30, 2001; Page A01
VITINA, Yugoslavia -- The half-dozen men who met secretly in this small
town in Kosovo province in December 1999 had a rebellion to plot.
Guerrillas had helped
expel the Yugoslav army from Kosovo just six months earlier; now, the men
were refining their plan for a similar insurrection in Macedonia, visible
just across the border
All the men at the meeting were ethnic Albanians, like most of Kosovo's
residents. But people familiar with the gathering say the key participants
were also citizens of
Macedonia, a nation with a Slav-dominated government that they viewed as
oppressing their ethnic group.
Some, such as Ali Ahmeti, had served time in a notorious Macedonian prison.
Others had organized a clandestine logistics and supply network in
Macedonia that fueled
the Kosovo fighting. Now they talked about how to repeat what they had done
inside the Yugoslav province: form a guerrilla army.
Yesterday, as the sound of mortar fire echoed across the Kosovo-Macedonian
border, the fruits of their secret efforts were clear. For the past month,
police and soldiers have been battling a new Albanian force calling itself
the National Liberation Army of Macedonia, which Western and local analysts
say has had as
many as 1,500 members.
The clashes pose the possibility of yet another full-scale ethnic war in
the Balkans, where the United States and its allies maintain peacekeeping
forces and until last
month had been hoping that lasting calm had finally set in.
Although Macedonian forces last week were able to push the rebels out of
villages near the western city of Tetovo, Western officials say the rebels
casualties and are still able to fight. "They are not defeated," said a
NATO official privy to intelligence about the group.
This latest Balkans struggle is born from a basic fact of the region's
history and geography: Boundaries of countries rarely coincide with the
boundaries of ethnic groups.
Unlike Serbian and Croatian efforts in the 1990s to form unified states,
the Albanian guerrillas say they want no redrawing of borders. Their
professed goal is autonomy
and an end to what they call systematic discrimination in such things as
jobs and the use of their own language in Macedonia. The government says
that the Albanian
minority has full political rights and that the allegations are invalid.
But so far the consequence of the conflict they have started has been to
further divide the nation's Slav majority from its ethnic Albanian minority.
More than 30,000 people from both groups have been driven from their homes,
and some villages near the front lines have been destroyed by artillery.
fighting has changed how officials in Europe and the United States view
ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. During the war there, they were seen as victims
of repression; now
Western officials say they worry that they have become dangerous exporters
of extremist violence.
"Many of the [army's] members are ex-political prisoners," said one of the
force's organizers, Fazli Veliu, explaining their zeal. "These are people
dealing with their
motherland issue, with national aspirations."
Ahmeti, the political leader of the National Liberation Army, is typical of
the small band of Albanian nationalists feeding this fire. He grew up in a
village near the
southern Macedonia city of Kicevo. The population there is evenly mixed
between Slavs and Albanians, people say, but intermarriage is virtually
nonexistent, and the
presence of a large Macedonian army base has done little to diminish ethnic
Ahmeti became involved in politics while studying education at the
University of Pristina in Kosovo when Kosovo and Macedonia were both part
Yugoslavia. Along with thousands of other students there, he took part in a
1981 street protest against Yugoslav rule that prompted a brutal government
Quickly convicted by a government court, he served time in Idrizovo prison,
a dumping ground for dissidents who challenged communist ideas of a
socially unified nation.
Conditions in the cellblocks were horrendous; Ahmeti was held in solitary
confinement for six months at the age of 20. After his release in 1982,
Ahmeti continued to
attract police attention and he fled to Switzerland.
The nationalist movement was then simmering among the Albanian diaspora.
Three ethnic Albanian political leaders were assassinated in Stuttgart,
Germany, in 1982,
allegedly by Yugoslav security agents; one month later, the National
Movement of Kosova was created at a secret meeting in Turkey.
The group, generally known by its Albanian initials LPK, initially sought
to pressure Yugoslavia into elevating Kosovo from a province to a full
Yugoslav republic. But
after Slobodan Milosevic became the nation's leader and Yugoslavia's
disintegration began, the group demanded the province's outright
This was, the group said in a manifesto published in 1993, a first step
toward the unification of all "occupied" territory in Macedonia and the
Yugoslav republics of Serbia
and Montenegro where ethnic Albanians predominated -- the creation of a
Greater Kosovo. It specifically listed armed resistance as one of its
Ahmeti later returned to Yugoslavia and organized demonstrations with other
nationalists in Kosovo. According to senior LPK members, in 1993 he and
Albanian activist, Emrush Xhemajli, gained their group's formal blessing at
another secret meeting to create the Kosovo Liberation Army.
By 1997, Ahmeti was spending much of his time in Tirana, Albania, helping
organize groups of guerrillas who crossed the border into Kosovo to attack
organizing efforts were assisted by Ahmeti's uncle, Fazli Veliu, a former
high school teacher from Macedonia who also had fled to Switzerland.
In 1999, NATO intervened in the KLA's war against Yugoslav forces, bombing
Yugoslavia for 78 days to force its army to withdraw from the province.
NATO peacekeeping troops entered Kosovo in June 1999, the KLA agreed to
But Veliu, Xhemajli and Ahmeti -- all of whom were born in Macedonia --
refused to fold the LPK or to embrace open politics. They instead continued
clandestinely as the LPK's executive council, according to their friends
and former colleagues.
In a series of telephone interviews, Veliu confirmed that the key decision
to form the National Liberation Army of Macedonia was made by this council.
He also said
that meetings to discuss the idea were held inside Macedonia in the fall of
1999 and in Vitina, Kosovo, in December of that year.
By February 2000, the organizing activities of Veliu, who was then
operating in Germany, had come to the attention of the Macedonian police;
they asked authorities in
Germany to detain him. After he was taken into custody there, a group
called the Association of Political Prisoners in Tetovo produced a petition
signed by 10,000 people
calling for his release.
The Macedonian justice minister, an ethnic Albanian, subsequently failed to
submit the proper extradition papers to German authorities, and so Veliu
was released after
45 days. The minister was then dismissed by the Slav-dominated government.
Training for Battle
When the KLA was formed in 1994, its leaders viewed the Albanian parts of
Macedonia as a natural place for guerrilla operations, according to several
of the group. On their maps, it was marked Zone 2.
But as the fight with Yugoslav forces escalated, Western diplomatic
pressure helped persuade the KLA not to start a war in Macedonia, the
former leaders said.
Instead, the country served as a key conduit for arms shipments from
Albania and Greece to KLA fighters in Kosovo. Arms caches were deposited in
or around dozens
of remote villages in Macedonia and moved by mule across the Karadak and
Sar Mountains into Kosovo.
After the Kosovo war, members of the Macedonian guerrilla army began to
draw on these stocks as they trained at a site in southern Macedonia, near
according to NATO officials. Some members also trained in Bajram Curri, a
village in northern Albania, one NATO official said.
In the latter half of 2000, as the LPK leaders started establishing small
guerrilla cells, they dispatched 30 or so men to establish an arms depot in
the village near
Tanuscevci, a remote site that straddles the Yugoslav-Macedonian border and
served as a smuggling point before and after the Kosovo war.
The guerrillas had ready support in the Kosovo town of Vitina, roughly 15
miles away. "There is no Albanian here that wouldn't like Macedonian
Albanians to have
better rights," said Vitina City Council President Samet Dalipi. "Some
helped in one form; somebody else helped in another. I know that there are
people going [to
Macedonia] from here."
The guerrillas' plan was to train for attacks against Macedonian forces
beginning later this year, perhaps in the summer, according to several
people close to the group.
But in mid-February, that schedule suddenly began to unravel. A Macedonian
television reporter was tipped to the presence of fighters in black
uniforms in Tanuscevci,
and when she went there to investigate, they took her gear and detained her
briefly, a move that ensured the story attracted enormous attention in
Skopje, the capital.
Macedonian police arrived soon afterward and a firefight ensued. Residents
of nearby villages on the Kosovo side of the border began to flee. Then, in
U.S. Army soldiers and a U.S. Special Forces unit in Kosovo forced the
fighters from the village, shooting and wounding one guerrilla who refused
to lay down his
The confrontation enraged the guerrillas, who were forced to leave their
arms cache behind, and prompted a debate within the ranks about how to
react. Some leaders
wanted to wait until the force was better organized and trained before
beginning any additional attack. But those who favored opening up a new
front above the city of
Tetovo right away in other villages carried the day.
"I contacted Ahmeti and tried to persuade him to give up the fight," said
one ethnic Albanian in Kosovo. "He said he could not stop the people, and
authorities had been brutal."
Some weapons the guerrillas have used in recent fighting appear to have
come from old KLA caches in Kosovo that NATO peacekeepers have not
week, German troops in Kosovo intercepted a mule train ferrying weapons
from Kosovo to Macedonia. Others were purchased. "It's not difficult to get
weapons in the
Balkans," said former KLA commander Ramush Haradinaj. "You just need money."
Touched by the scenes of fighting in the past weeks, some members of the
ethnic Albanian diaspora have established an international fund -- called
the Voice of
Freedom -- for donations meant to fuel the war.
Nonetheless, many Albanians say their deep patriotism is misunderstood, and
that today they have no political goal besides better treatment for
Albanians within existing
countries and the right to move freely among them.
The overwhelming majority of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and Kosovo have
no desire to merge politically with backward Albania, many Albanians say.
The LPK has
only 4,000 declared supporters among Kosovo's 2 million residents, and it
won only 1 percent of the vote in municipal elections last year.
Xhemajli and others close to the guerrillas say it is only their methods
that separate them from moderate Albanians and that their goals are the
same. "We are for a
dialogue," Veliu said. The rebels used violence only because "we were faced
to the wall. The political process wasn't working."
But Arben Xhaferi, head of the largest Albanian political party in
Macedonia, which is part of a ruling coalition and has fought for change,
said the current violence is
only a "metaphor for stupidity." It has been fueled by psychologically
damaged "Rambos in Albanian society" whose solution to their frustrations
is to pick up a gun, he
© 2001 The Washington Post Company