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World - Europe

KLA guerrillas appeal for arms, NATO ground troops

KLA volunteers
KLA volunteers from Europe arrive in Tirana

 ALSO
Pentagon: NATO played wrong pilot tape in convoy incident

NATO: Reports indicate stepped up 'ethnic cleansing'

Macedonia fears KLA recruting from refugee camps

NATO strikes loosen U.S.-Russia ties

 

April 17, 1999
Web posted at: 5:45 p.m. EDT (2145 GMT)


In this story:

Rebels regroup in Albania

KLA unwelcome in Macedonia

Clark: NATO won't aid KLA

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



NEW YORK (CNN) -- Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas, whose battle against Yugoslav forces has taken a backstage role since NATO airstrikes began March 24, are pleading with the alliance to supply them with arms.

"Arming the KLA would be one of the best decisions (NATO) planners could make," KLA spokesman Shinasi Rama told CNN on Saturday.

Rama also called for NATO ground troops to be introduced into Kosovo.

"We can take care of (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic," Rama said. "With every day that goes by, the Kosovo Liberation Army and people of Kosovo show that if they are supported by a strong air campaign and ground troops, we can get rid of the Milosevic regime."

The ethnic Albanian KLA began an uprising against Serb authorities and the Yugoslav government more than a year ago. Its battle for the independence of Kosovo, and a crackdown on the separatist movement by Belgrade, led Western countries to try to mediate a cease-fire. NATO began airstrikes after the peace negotiations failed.

The United States and NATO allies have opposed arming the KLA or endorsing it's goal of independence. KLA rebel leaders agreed to a peace plan proposed by the West which called for autonomy in Kosovo, not full independence.

But Rama said the KLA's provisional government believes that Yugoslavia has forfeited any claim to the province by unleashing a campaign of "ethnic cleansing."

Rebels regroup in Albania

Belgrade says it has forced the KLA out of Kosovo.

But KLA fighters are still active in the fog-bound mountains along the Albanian-Yugoslav frontier, and are now drawing recruits from other countries.

A contingent of 97 KLA volunteers -- mostly from the ethnic Albanian communities of the American northeast -- landed in Tirana, Albania's capital, on Saturday.

Several said they were ex-U.S. Marines. They ranged in age from a 73-year-old man to Elinda Muriqi, a 16-year-old girl from the Bronx who said she came to Albania "to shoot some Serbs."

Muriqi said she was not afraid of dying. "If I was scared, I would stay in America. I wouldn't come here," she said.

Many KLA troops have previous military experience from serving in the Yugoslav army, which they now battle with the indirect aid of NATO air power.

The KLA flexed its muscle this week by delivering a captured Yugoslav infantry officer to Albanian authorities, who have turned him over to the U.S. military in Tirana.

NATO officials said the rebels maintain a corridor between Albania and Kosovo, through which fighters pass into the province and refugees leave.

But critics have noted ties between rebel leaders and organized crime.

KLA unwelcome in Macedonia

The KLA has also been scouting for recruits in the Kosovo refugee camps of Macedonia, a move that has angered local officials.

Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic, fears being drawn into the conflict in Kosovo and has launched a crackdown against the KLA.

Macedonian officials said they discovered a KLA armory in an abandoned mine near the border with Kosovo. And two ethnic Albanians from Macedonia were arrested when they were caught by police with a tractor loaded with guns.

But Albania has done little to deter KLA activity on its border, despite daily shelling along its border and a brief incursion Tuesday by a Yugoslav infantry unit.

Clark: NATO won't aid KLA

NATO officials said the KLA could survive sustained attacks in Kosovo and defeat Yugoslav forces in time.

But Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme commander, said the alliance is not aiding the KLA, despite having a common adversary.

Clark, who arrived in Tirana Saturday, said the border skirmishes are one of several issues he discussed with Albanian leaders.

"We discussed the threat posed by Serb elements, artillery and infantry incursions into northern Albania. This threat is absolutely unacceptable, a violation of sovereign territory and it needs to be stopped," Clark said.


RELATED STORIES:
Yugoslav POW in U.S. custody; reserves to be called up
April 17, 1999
NATO strikes loosen U.S.-Russia ties
April 17, 1999
Macedonia fears it could become KLA staging ground
April 16, 1999
Official Pentagon statement on captured Yugoslav soldier
April 16, 1999
Yugoslavia rejects U.N. peace plan for Kosovo
April 16, 1999
Active duty ahead for thousands of reservists
April 16, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
  • Kosovo

Yugoslavia:
  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News


Kosovo:
  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosovo - from Albanian.com

Military:
  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

Relief:
  • Kosovar doctor helps refugees one at a time
  • Mercy International USA
  • Donations for Kosovo Refugees
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Unicef USA
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • World Vision
  • CARE: The Kosovo Crisis
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Disaster Relief from DisasterRelief.org
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page


Media:
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

Other:
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