Strategic Issues Research Institute
July 1, 1999
Note: This archive, intended for research purposes, contains copyright material included "for fair use only."
1. Kosovo Rebels and Their New Friend
BYLINE: By CHRIS HEDGES
DATELINE: VICIDIOL, Albania, June 9 1998
The family farm of the former Albanian President, Sali Berisha, who was driven from power last year, has become a base for the Kosovo Liberation Army, an ethnic Albanian group fighting for independence for their province from Serbia.
Mr. Berisha's decision to turn over his birthplace to the rebels is part of his skillful manipulation of the crisis in Kosovo to mount a political comeback, Western diplomats say.
His return to power would not be welcomed by Washington, which blames his administration for Albania's economic melt-down and descent into lawlessness. The unrest began with the collapse of pyramid schemes, many of them encouraged by the Government, that cost thousands of Albanians their savings.
The decision to back the armed movement in Kosovo could also push Albania toward open conflict with Belgrade and spread the fighting beyond Serbia's borders.
"The increased violence in the border region is counterproductive," said Daan W. Everts, the representative in Albania for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "Instead of reducing militancy, it has increased it inside Kosovo and Albania. The more violence, the more militancy."
The stone farmhouse here, two miles south of Tropoje, with a red tile roof and small, narrow windows, was surrounded this morning with dozens of pack horses and 30 young men who were being issued AK-47 assault rifles from an underground bunker in a field. Those interviewed said they were preparing to cross the rugged border to join the rebels and fight Serbian troops.
Mr. Berisha's elderly cousin, Besnik Berisha, who had lived with his wife and family in the house for several years, moved out a few days ago, the men said. A newly built wooden fence around the compound and piles of assault rifles and ammunition boxes gave the place the feel of a fortress.
The rebels, who move in darkness across the border into Kosovo, spoke bitterly of the request by the Prime Minister, Fatos Nano, Mr. Berisha's political rival, that NATO troops be stationed along the border on the Albanian side.
"We don't want NATO troops here," said a young, bearded leader who would not give his name. "The deployment of NATO troops on the border will only assist the Serbs and hurt our struggle. If NATO troops go into Kosovo, we will welcome them and respect any arrangement made by them, but they have no place in Albania."
Several hundred young ethnic Albanians, with tons of weapons and supplies, have entered Kosovo during the last week with Kosovar guerrillas based here. The influx drew heavy Serbian shelling and blasts from 20-millimeter antiaircraft canon, which pounded the mountain range along the border on Monday night and today. Thousands of refugees have fled Kosovo for Albania and Macedonia.
Mr. Berisha's decision to turn the border region under his control into a staging area for the guerrilla army is popular here in the north, where many Albanians have relatives in Kosovo and have accepted refugees into their homes.
Prime Minister Nano, who had condemned the armed movement in Kosovo, has begun referring to the guerrilla movement as "armed resistance" and the struggle as "legitimate self-defense."
The arms trafficking, paid for by ethnic Albanians in Germany and Switzerland, is enriching Mr. Berisha's supporters and swelling his power base. The trafficking, which underlines the fact that Mr. Nano's administration lacks control overwhole sections of the country, has also welded the growing rebel army in Kosovo to Mr. Berisha's political party.
Mr. Berisha refers to the fighting in Kosovo as a holy war and has called on ethnic Albanians to "defend their homes and their land." He has called Mr. Nano's Government an "enemy of the Albanian nation" for failing to support the rebel cause. He defines the "Albanian nation" as including not only Albania but also Kosovo and western Macedonia, which itself is dominated by ethnic Albanians. Mr. Berisha refers to the Serbian forces as "barbarians" and the rebels as "blessed."
Albania has been flooded with more than 10,000 refugees. A few hundred new arrivals come each day. Local television runs frequent pictures, shown throughout the day in homes and coffee shops, of lines of refugees and weeping mothers speaking of suffering and violence inflicted by the Serbs.
The fighting in Kosovo, which has taken at least 250 lives since March, has intensified in recent days with attempts by the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, to force residents from villages along the border and raze what remains. The campaign is seen as an effort to thwart the arms smuggling and crossborder incursions by the guerrillas.
In the anarchy that swept Albania last year, mobs stole 650,000 weapons and tons of military equipment from local armories. Many weapons were smuggled into Kosovo and old stockpiles, as well as new purchases, are swelling the rebel inventory, Western diplomats said.
At the same time, armed gangs with assault rifles in the trunks of their cars roam freely. The police and local officials are corrupt or powerless, and factories and stores, looted and gutted last year in the upheaval, stand idle and deserted. Cars are stopped on the roads during the day and stolen by brigands, and there are frequent shoot-outs in the dusty village streets to settle feuds and rivalries.
Copyright by The New York Times,
June 10, 1998
2. Serbs say West helps Kosovo Albanian ``terrorists''
04:31 a.m. Jan 29, 1999 Eastern
By Kurt Schork
PRISTINA, Serbia, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Western governments are coddling ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, awarding them at the negotiating table what they never won on the battlefield, the top Serbian official in the province complained on Friday.
Zoran Andjelkovic, President of the province's governing Interim Executive Council, told Reuters that the exodus of Kosovo's minority Serb population had accelerated since a ceasefire agreement was signed last October 15.
``What has happened here since the October agreement has been a tragedy. Our police were forced to withdraw and international monitors were slow in arriving,'' Andjelkovic said.
``KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) terrorists filled the vacuum, using murder and kidnapping to create panic among Serbs, who fear for their lives.''
Ninety percent of the population in this southern Serbian province are ethnic Albanian. KLA guerrillas are fighting for independence on behalf of that majority.
Andjelkovic said 97 villages had been ``cleansed'' of Serbs in the last seven months, 36 of them since the ceasefire agreement that required most Serbian security forces to withdraw from Kosovo or return to bases within the province.
``The manager of a large public enterprise here told me today that his engineers are leaving Kosovo,'' the Serbian official recounted from his office in Pristina, the provincial capital.
``The engineers tell him they don't know where they will find a place to live or to work and that they don't care, so long as they and their wives and children can sleep at night without worrying about terrorist attacks.''
Andjelkovic cited the December kidnapping and murder of the deputy mayor of nearby Kosovo Polje and the kidnapping of five Serb civilians, including two women, near Vuciturn this month as the sort of incidents destroying communal life in Kosovo.
``It's true the five Serbs (in Vuciturn) were finally released, but ethnic Albanians and Serbs will never live together normally in that area again. They will always be divided by fear and mistrust,'' Andjelkovic said.
``The murder of the deputy mayor of Kosovo Polje, who lived in the village of Velika Slatina, caused four Serb families to leave. It's not just that another 15 Serbs left, it's that Velika Slatina has been ethnically cleansed by terror.''
``We blame the international community. NATO is used to pressure our police. The KLA interpret that as support. They are not a liberation movement. They are terrorists and criminals who don't hesitate to kill Albanians when it suits them.''
More than 2,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes in Kosovo in the 11 months since the KLA began its guerrilla campaign.
The international community, mostly worried about containing the violence and preventing a wider Balkan war, says both sides in Kosovo prey on civilians.
Western officials warn that Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders will soon be summoned to peace talks and ordered to agree an interim peace deal under threat of NATO action.
Among those likely to have a place at the table is the KLA, a development that Andjelkovic warned could be enough in itself to derail the proposed talks.
``We have no intention of trying to choose negotiating representatives for the Albanian side,'' Andjelkovic said.
``Neither do we intend to sit across from those killing and kidnapping our people. If the international community had taken a stand against the KLA and allowed our police to finish their work there would be a real chance for peace.''
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Croatia apparently remains secretly at war with Yugoslavia, as does Bosnia. Both support the KLA --BCW
Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Published at 09:29 GMT
BBC: World: Europe
Serbs find KLA 'arms cache'
3. Serbs say arms for KLA fighters were in a truck coming from Croatia::
Yugoslav authorities say police have seized weapons, ammunition and uniforms bound for ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo hidden in a lorry coming from Croatia.
Official Serbian sources say the cache, worth more than $500,000, is the biggest ever seized inside the embattled Serbian province.
The police found "100 automatic weapons, several thousand bullets of various sizes, rockets, and uniforms bearing the insignia of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)", according to the Serbian Information Centre in Pristina.
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4. Albanian Gang Recaptures Boats Seized by Police
VLORE, Albania, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Albanian gang members involved in the smuggling of illegal immigrants to Italy recaptured six speedboats on Saturday after police had seized them the previous day, witnesses said. Albanian and Italian police had mounted a joint operation to bring the boats to an island off the port of Vlore on Friday night as part of efforts to stem a steady flow of migrants across the Adriatic Sea. Six men were arrested.
Angry gang-members blocked the main road along the coast on Saturday morning and, when Vlore police chief Sokol Kociu came to negotiate with them, he was roughed up and taken to Sazan island where the boats were moored.
"A group of armed smugglers blocked the main road by the coast this morning," a Vlore resident told Reuters by telephone. "The Vlore police chief tried to negotiate with them but they insulted and assaulted him." Once on Sazan, the gang members reclaimed their property and released the police chief.
Albania, Europe's poorest country, has experienced periodic violence since the collapse of communism in 1991. At least half a million weapons were looted from army barracks during months of chaos in 1997 and many outlying regions are completely lawless.
Vlore was the centre of a 1997 revolt that followed the collapse of fraudulent pyramid investment schemes, which eventually toppled the former Democratic Party government and brought to power a Socialist-led coalition.
Police, who were backed by troops, did not intervene in Saturday's standoff. The situation in the town was otherwise quiet.
Ethnic Albanians fleeing the conflict in Yugoslavia's Kosovo province, as well as Kurdish refugees, use Albania as a springboard for entering southern Italy.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.All rights reserved.
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Note: This adds more breadth to the scope of Albanian refugee and heroin smuggling across the Adriatic to Italy. Once there, refugees have easy access to Western Europe and once heroin enters Italy and the European Union's customs zone, it can move on without any further customs inspections. --BCW
THE NATIONAL POST (Canada), Monday, March 1, 1999 WORLD
5. Migrants offered package deal to freedom
In the Strait of Otranto, criminals help desperate people find a new home in Europe: In an astounding display of international co-operation, organized criminals from around the globe have combined to offer a one-price-covers-all scheme to collect illegal emigrants from the world's hot spots and smuggle them into the new, borderless Europe. Frank Vivian reports
PHOTO: George Karachalis, Reuters / An Albanian woman holds her crying baby as a gunman stops her from approaching a boat in a desperate bid to flee the country. The local "mafia" was charging $250 (US) a person for a ride to Italy.
PHOTO: Santiago Lyon, The Associated Press / Two Albanian men use a rope to get aboard a boat leaving for Italy in the Albanian port of Durres.
PHOTO: Paolo Cocco, Reuters / Albanian refugees queue to disembark as they arrive at the south Italian port of Brindisi, after they were rescued by the Italian coast guard in the Adriatic sea.
From the moment he sees the rust-streaked freighter slide out of a fog bank on the Otranto Strait, 40 kilometres west of the Albanian coast, and abruptly change course, Captain Antonino Lo Presti is wary.
"She's an old gas tanker, the kind a smuggler can buy at a scrapyard for next to nothing," he says, giving the order for full throttle. "When we picked her up on radar, she didn't even respond to our signals." This is where the war-torn Third World meets Western Europe head-on, in a tense struggle between civil society and organized crime that holds hundreds of lives hostage every night.
Capt. Lo Presti's command, the high-speed pursuit vessel Cavaglia, sailing under the flag of the Guardia di Finanza, Italy's counterpart to the Canadian Coast Guard, patrols one of the most dangerous seaways on the planet.
An international conspiracy of unprecedented dimensions, involving crime syndicates in half a dozen nations -- and trafficking in enormous quantities of narcotics, arms, and desperate human beings -- operates in these waters.
As the two vessels close on a moonless night, the radio of the 70-metre freighter finally crackles into response, agreeing to heave to. Its name and Syrian home port are faint, nearly illegible scrawls on the stern.
"Could be drugs," says the captain. "Could be guns. Could be people."
Led by chief engineering officer Girolamo Gambino, four crew members strap on bulletproof vests and handguns, and prepare to board.
They return after an hour, shaking their heads. The freighter carries only a herd of goats bound for the port of Koper, Slovenia. It makes no commercial sense as cargo, but there is nothing more the Cavaglia can do. Two days later, police report a large group of clandestine emigrants has landed on the Italian coast near Venice, from a small port just south of Koper.
The 67-kilometre-wide Otranto Strait is the narrowest waterway between the rich European Union and a Third World engulfed in civil war. It's also the last leg of an epic journey for vast numbers of undocumented migrants.
Their origins are a catalogue of the planet's bloodiest crises. Crossing the strait in the holds of rusting freighters -- or more often aboard gommones, 95km/h motor launches based in the Albanian port of Vlore - they include refugees from every conflict raging in Africa, the Balkans, and south and central Asia.
On the single afternoon and night a team of journalists spent aboard the Cavaglia, the Guardia di Finanza rounded up 365 clandestine emigrants.
They had set sail from Vlore after journeys to Albania of up to 10 weeks, from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Kurdish borderland of Turkey and Iraq, Kosovo, Algeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. Italian government spokesmen estimate 800 to 1,000 such emigrants leave Vlore daily, successfully eluding detection -- or drowning en route.
Once in Italy, they are able to travel north unimpeded and disappear into the swelling Third World ghettos of Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and Rotterdam. In an effort to further integrate their economies, Italy and most other EU nations have dismantled border posts with their EU neighbours in the past two years.
It is what precedes the clandestine voyages on the Otranto Strait that suggests an underworld conspiracy more extensive, and more ominous, than anything preceding it in the annals of organized crime.
Put simply, "mafia" groups from the South China Sea to Sicily have recognized a golden opportunity in Europe's open internal borders.
With extraordinary sophistication and minute planning, they have combined forces to smuggle thousands of human beings over the EU's Adriatic frontier.
In dozens of interviews, emigrants said they had paid for their transportation to Western Europe in their homelands. That one up-front payment covered everything: At each step on their journey -- whether it be the remote frontier between Iraq and Turkey, or a port in Nigeria, Albania or Pakistan -- buses, cars, and maritime vessels were waiting, and no further payment was asked.
"I gave a man in Kabul $6,000 [all figures US] for myself and my sister," says a traveller from Afghanistan. "When we crossed into Pakistan, there was a minibus ready for us, and others when we reached Iran and Turkey."
Neither he nor his sister had passports or official identification documents, yet they had crossed several of the world's most heavily defended borders.
"After Turkey, it was a freighter to Albania," the Afghan says. "Nobody anywhere said a word about more money."
Each driver or helmsman's share of the fee had been assigned in advance, and distributed by an international team of paymasters who were trusted to meet specific billing schedules that stretched across two continents.
The size of the advance payment is based on a complicated formula that takes into account the level of political risk and the distance travelled.
Like the Afghans, several Sri Lankans had paid $3,000 apiece. "We were the last sons alive in our families," one says. "Everybody gave something, everybody hopes we'll be able to get them out, too."
A group of 14 Kurds and six Christians from Iraq who made the journey together had paid $1,500 a person, and a family of four from Kosovo paid $1,000 an adult and $500 a child.
Albanians are offered a special package if they make their own way to Vlore: Three voyages to Italy for a flat $1,200 -- "in case we're caught the first two times," one explained. Apart from the Albanians, most of those who are apprehended at sea by the Guardia di Finanza, or on the beaches by the Italian carabinieri, are refugees eligible to apply for political asylum, although there is no certainty they will eventually receive it.
The Italian government will not forcibly repatriate people who arrive illegally from war-torn countries where they might be imprisoned or executed as suspected terrorists.
Large numbers of clandestine emigrants from Kosovo, Kurdish Iraq, and Turkey, and northern Sri Lanka -- especially young men aged 21 to 35 -- are clearly militants who have been identified by law enforcement authorities in their homelands and obliged to flee.
"Of course I am a Tiger," one refugee says, referring to the ethnic-Tamil guerrilla army that has waged a bloody 15-year war against the Sri Lankan government. "Every Tamil my age in our country is a Tiger."
The apprehended newcomers find themselves on a complicated, demoralizing road once they reach Italy. The first stop is a cluster of metal sheds, aluminum truck containers that have been refashioned into temporary housing and installed on the wharves of Otranto, the Cavaglia's port.
Once the travellers' origins are established, those who are not identified as nationals of Albania, Morocco, or Tunisia -- countries that have signed "instant deportation agreements" with Italy -- are bused to the Casa Regina Pacis. At the refugee camp 25 kilometres north of Otranto in the town of San Foca they are photographed and fingerprinted. Within a week, most are freed to the custody of relatives in Germany, northern Italy, or France, in keeping with legislation covering asylum applicants. Others are sent to larger holding camps in Sicily -- or climb over the San Foca fences at night to make their way north as best they can.
The scene at San Foca recently was Babel revisited, with a dozen languages pouring into the hallway phones from which the interned called relatives.
The camp, built to house 300 boy scouts on summer vacations, held nearly 600 emigrants. The walls of the crowded sleeping halls were covered with graffiti, also in a dozen languages, left by earlier arrivals: "Kosovo I love You," "I went to Germany" and "Allah protect us."
Down the hall from the phones, two Liberian prostitutes sat quietly on bunk beds, awaiting a decision on their next destination.
The clandestine traffic has increasingly become a modern slave trade, with young women, chiefly from West Africa, Ukraine, Russia, and Albania forced into prostitution and sold to middlemen overseeing sex rings in Europe.
The Liberian women declined to talk, but many others at San Foca were eager to tell their stories. "I'm a schoolteacher from a country where there are no classrooms or books anymore," a refugee from Afghanistan says. "I am also a Tajik," he adds, drawing a finger across his neck to suggest a throat-slitting. The Tajik minority in Afghanistan, which resisted the revolution of the fundamentalist Taleban movement, has been subjected to genocidal campaigns by the government in recent months.
The Roman Catholic charity organization Caritas, which administers the camp for the Italian authorities and oversees reporters' visits, asks only that no names be used.
"These are political refugees," says a Caritas executive. "Their families could well be in mortal danger if the wrong person reads your article."
Her concern reflects a widespread mixture of alarm and sympathy over the influx among Italians, for whom mass immigration is a new phenomenon.
"They arrive with every imaginable problem -- bayonet wounds, broken limbs, infections of the respiratory system, intestinal disorders, acute mental trauma. It's heart-breaking," says Dr. Marina Greco, who presides over a two-physician clinic at Regina Pacis.
"I look at these people, and I can't help but think of how many of my own family made the same kind of voyage to America," says Mr. Gambino, the Cavaglia's engineering officer, who is from Sicily. But the sentimentality does not extend to Albanians.
Unlike the refugees, who share their boats, Albanians in police custody are returned home within 24 hours. One result is that the ferries that travel daily between Italy and Albania are nearly empty westbound -- the voyages in that direction are made in gommones or freighters -- and crammed full on the eastbound run. The returned are a living encyclopaedia of the reasons Italian popular opinion has shifted so sharply -- from open-armed sympathy toward Albania when it threw off half a century of oppressive Stalinist rule in 1992, to fearful hostility.
On a recent voyage from the Italian port of Brindisi to Vlore, the Illyrian Lines ferry Tirana was packed to the gunwales with young men who drank themselves into a brawling rage on the night-long voyage, leaving ransacked cabins and decks full of broken chairs and tables.
Thieves quickly singled out the few foreigners on board -- including two journalists, who were threatened repeatedly with beatings, and whose cabin vouchers and return tickets were stolen before the ship even sailed.
"They have a distorted mentality after all those years of isolation," says Antonio Probo, a Cavaglia officer, referring to Albania's years under Enver Hoxha, a reclusive dictator who shut his country to the Soviet Union and Mao Tse-tung's China as well the capitalist West.
"They have no sense of a relationship between legitimate work and money. The worst of them are evil bastards who will throw a baby overboard without a second thought if it will slow us down in a chase."
The charge is widely repeated by Italian law enforcement authorities and aid workers. "Every night, in the last few months, a baby or a young girl has been pushed into the sea," says Alessandro Russo, a medical aide with the Catholic charity Misericordia who treats injured emigrants on the Otranto wharf.
At 11:30 p.m., as officers Probo and Gambino scour the horizon with binoculars, the voice of the radar officer suddenly squawks over the Cavaglia loudspeakers: "Gommone, 41 degrees 22 minutes north by 18 degrees 43 minutes east, bearing west southwest at 45 knots."
Capt. Lo Presti adjusts course and speed to intercept.
The chase is an exercise in the frustrations that make Europe's spiralling immigration crisis seem beyond solution to many observers.
Equipped with sensitive computerized navigation instruments, the Cavaglia can bring the gommone in sight an hour later. But until the smugglers' work is done -- until the emigrants are safely ashore -- "we can't do anything but keep track of its location," Capt. Lo Presti says.
"Otherwise just in getting too close, we might accidentally kill a lot of people. These vessels are dangerously overcrowded and unstable."
The concerns are justified. On Dec. 6, two Italy-bound vessels foundered in a winter storm. International maritime officials believe they carried up to 700 Kurds, West Africans, Algerians, Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis. It is feared that more than 200 people drowned.
"A confrontation at sea with gommones weighed down with mothers and children is something that cannot be undertaken without the gravest risks," said Massimo D'Alema, Italy's prime minister.
Yet the frustration only grows when the gommone has landed its passengers, and probably a cargo of narcotics, and put back to sea. In a perilous midnight cat-and-mouse game at nearly 80km/h on the high seas, the Cavaglia brings the motor launch alongside several times, only to be outmanoeuvred and eventually outrun by its more agile quarry.
"We'd like to put a shot into their sides, that's for sure, and we have the armaments to do it," says Domenico Di Gianvittorio, a veteran Guardia di Finanza officer in his 50s.
"But we come out here with shackles on our wrists. The policy is 'No shooting unless they shoot first,' and the smugglers are well aware of that. So the result is that we race back and forth, night after night, to little purpose, and the flesh trade goes on under our noses."
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Note: This article makes a direct link between Mafia heroin-trafficking and the KLA in Kosovo. --BCW
Corriere della Sera (Milan)
Janury 19, 1999
6. CRIMES COMMITTED IN ITALY PROVIDE FUNDS FOR KOSOVO GUERRILLAS
By C. B.
Milan -- As long as he was able, until the Milan district Anti-Mafia Directorate and the Carabinieri ROS [Special Operations Group] locked him in a solitary isolation cell, Agim Gashi -- the 35-year-old criminal boss from Pristina, king of the Milan drugs market -- supplied his brothers in Kosovo with Kalashnikov rifles, bazookas, and hand grenades. He controlled the heroin market, and at least part of the billions of lire he made from it was used to buy weapons for the "resistance" movement of the Albanian kosovo.netmunity.
Conversations monitored by ROS, on file with so-called "Operation Africa," contain recollections of his established reign. Gashi spoke in Serbo-Croat with his men and with the Turkish-route heroin suppliers. That is, the language of the Serbian "enemy," of the hated Orthodox religion. The one against which he rallied his Muslim brothers. He is known to have made a telephone call to encourage Turkish heroin suppliers during Ramadan -- a violation of religious rules for the sake of a more important cause: "to submerge Christian infidels in drugs."
With Gashi's arrest, the ethnic Albanian Kosovar clans' rule in Milan has apparently not come to an end. The old 'Ndrangheta families, the Mafia "dozens" ["decine" -- traditional groupings], and the old Egyptian "lords" depend on the new masters of the drug market, acknowledging their authority. In any case, the route is secure. From Turkey, via Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania, it reaches Germany, and from there, Italy. On board trucks or regular cars, it supplies heroin from East to West. On the return trip it has to ensure the invisibility of profits totaling billions of lire. These are needed to buy weapons in Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania for the Kosovo resistance.
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THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 13th January 1999, page 13
7. Crisis talks as Milan is hit by wave of killings
Italy's Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema held crisis talks with police and local officials in Milan yesterday to try to restore order to a city that has seen nine murders so far this year.
The government has deployed an extra 800 police and 90 patrol cars to Milan as a stopgap measure to ease the "crime emergency".
Diego Masi, an Interior Ministry under-secretary, blamed the Albanian mafia, which has entered the city on a tide of illegal immigrants. An official report puts the Albanians top among foreign crime organizations. It says they concentrate on drugs and prostitution. Their lack of Western moral values allows them to settle scores with appalling coldness, often murdering people in crowded streets and bars.
Bruce Johnston, Rome........"
It has been long established that the UCK gets most of its funds from mafia racketeering and extortion in Western Europe. The Swiss, French, Italian, and German police have published numerous reports on this issue. The UCK gangsters operating in Milan are no different than the UCK gangsters operating in KosMet.
--AV, South Salem, NY
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8. Subj: The (Irish) Mirror CALL THIS JUSTICE
The (Irish) Mirror
January 22, 1999, Friday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 9
CALL THIS JUSTICE; PARENTS' FURY AS KILLER WHO STABBED SON 15 TIMES IS SENT TO JAIL FOR JUST FIVE YEARS
BYLINE: By Caoihme Young
A DISTRAUGHT father whose son's killer was sentenced to just five years in prison told The Irish Mirror last night: "I feel like I've been raped."
Liam Martin, 23, was killed in a vicious attack outside Abrakebabra fast food shop on Dublin's O'Connell Street less than two years ago.
His grieving father Seamus, who has turned up to every hearing since the case began 18 months ago, said: "I can't believe it - this is worse than the day my son Liam was stabbed 15 times on a Dublin city street. "The sentence is an insult to our family."
The Martin family are heartbroken with the judge's decision. Relatives and friends gathered last night at their home in Graigueallen, Co Carlow, to comfort them.
"The judge didn't even mention us once, he never even said he was sorry for our troubles," said Seamus. "I'm so angry - I don't know what we will do now.
"It was like they thought that Liam somehow deserved what he got. He was stabbed in his heart, twice in his lungs, everywhere - who can say he deserved that?
"I know it's a dreadful thing to say but honestly I feel like I've been raped.
"My wife, Bridie, just cried in the car the whole way home from Dublin.
"Everyone is shocked, people have been calling in all afternoon to tell us they are disgusted with the verdict."
And Seamus revealed that Liam wanted to leave Dublin because he thought it was too dangerous. Afrim Xhafa, 22, pleaded guilty on October last year to the manslaughter of Liam.
He stabbed him 15 times after a row broke out in a pub in May 1997 when racist abuse was allegedly hurled at Xhafa.
Liam was sitting in an all-night restaurant later when he was attacked just after 1am.
Xhafa also pleaded guilty to maliciously wounding with intent Bedrija Hoti, an asylum-seeker from Kosovo, who is living in Drimnagh.
Xhafa is originally from the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia on the border with Albania.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Diarmuid O'Donovan said he took into account That Xhafa had pleaded guilty and that he had no previous record.
But the judge said while there might have been provocation in the row, he had to put the message across that carrying knives would not be tolerated.
He had returned home from America to work nearer home and see more of his sisters Fidelma, Jenny and Sheila, and his older brothers Michael and Joey.
Liam was living in Dublin's Phibsboro and was working as a security guard.
But he was determined to go back and live in New York because he thought the streets of Dublin were not safe.
A grieving Seamus said: "All the time Liam was in America he was not afraid, but he was seriously afraid in Dublin.
"He was thinking of asking his bosses for a transfer to Cork. He thought he might be safer there.
"He told us: 'I hope you and Mammy don't mind but I'm thinking of going back to America.' He never got that chance."
Seamus is not angry with the man who stabbed his son to death - he is angry with the Irish criminal system.
"The court tried to make out that my son was racist and that's why he was killed.
"My son did not deserve to be murdered."
GRAPHIC: VICTIM: Liam was just 23;; HEARTBROKEN: Liam's parents Bridie and Seamus;; GUILTY: Afrim Xhafa is led from court yesterday after being jailed
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9. Subj: MEDIA CENTER: Incidents in Kosovo Feb 4
Date: 99-02-05 11:50:11 EST
4 February 1999 10:00 PRISTINA
- Milan Stevanovic (1979) from Gorazdevac was killed last night around 2:30 AM in the center of Djakovica.
Attackers opened fire on his vehicle with automatic weapons. Another three persons were in the car but they were not wounded.
The OSCE verifying mission was informed about the incident. Police are searching for the ones who committed this crime.
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10. AP: A Christian Orthodox Monastery Robbed In Kosovo
Date: 99-02-05 11:48:53 EST
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) - Thieves broke into an equipment shed at the farm of a Serbian Orthodox Church monastery and made off with supplies including tractor engines, furnishings, machinery and "even the front door," the Serb Media Center reported Thursday.
The incident occurred Tuesday night at the monastery of Devic about 30 kilometers (18 miles) northwest of Pristina in an area held by the ethnic Albanian rebel Kosovo Liberation Army.
According to the center, the Mother Superior, known as Sister Anastasia, drove to a nearby police station the following day to report the break-in when her car collided with a vehicle containing several men armed with automatic rifles and wearing black uniforms and the black and red patch of the KLA.
No injuries were reported and the Mother Superior and two companions were not mistreated, the center said.
The monastery is home to nine Serbian Orthdox nuns who have continued to live there despite the conflict between ethnic Albanians, who are mostly Muslims, and the Serb minority.
The protection of Serbian churches and monasteries that dot Kosovo's undulating countryside is one of the primary concerns of Serbs in their conflict with the ethnic Albanians who demand independenc
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The Guardian 30th September Main Section page 15
11. Thousands of Albanian children in hiding to escape blood feuds.
Vengeance of the most direct kind is making a comeback in the wild north of Albania, Owen Bowcott in Shkoder reports
GJIN Mekshi is a school teacher and a man of "good reputation". His flat is decorated with icons of the Virgin Mary. His calling involves reconciling vendettas and blood feuds.
In a cramped fifth floor flat looking out on Albania's semi-lawless northern mountains, he deplores the spread of violence and the lack of respect for traditional codes of behaviour.
As a leading member of the Shkoder-based Committee for Blood Reconciliation, he works within a moral framework devised by a tribal chieftain excommunicated for his "most un-Christian code".
The 15th century kanun (code) of Lek Dukagjini which regulates revenge killings to preserve the honour of the clan, or fis has been revived in northern Albania since the demise of communism. Up to 6,000 children are said to be in hiding from blood feuds.
But the code's harsh justice is no longer being respected. "The kanun is a good way for resolving arguments, but not in the way most people interpret it as always ending in killings,'! Mr Mekshi explains.
"The code doesn't allow women to be killed, but there have been cases in Tropoje [on the Kosovo border] this year where women have been forced into hiding by death threats.
"In some families there are no men left. So far no women have been killed."
Modern reproductions of the kanun are on sale in the Tirana's kiosks. Its author is thought to be Lek Dukagjin, Lord of Dagmo and Zadrima, who fought the Turks until 1472, then fled to Italy. His intention was to limit the cycles of bloodletting among the mountain tribps which sometimes destroyed entire communities by enabling a council of tribal elders to arrange a besa, or truce once honour had been obtained.
Enver Hoxha's regime suppressed it. But the privatisation of land, which reopened ancient disputes, and the breakdown of law and order last year, when Albania's armouries were looted, have encouraged direct retribution.
"Since the committee was set up in 1991 we have resolved 365 cases in Albania and 38 feuds abroad," Mr Mekshi records. "One feud has been running for more than 80 years.
"Sometimes the vendettas start through killings or land disputes but they also begin with a fight over a drink or a car accident. Usually it's a killing for a killing, a beating for a beating. The kanun doesn't specify how killings should be carried out, but if you mutilate a victim's face, attack him from behind or kill him after you gave your word not to, the bad blood comes back to you.
"Within the first 24 hours you may kill anyone from the clan to which the person who carried out the initial killing belonged-but not a woman. After that you can kill a member of the family. After a year, it must be only the murderer or whoever lives in his house."
The Committee of Blood Reconciliation has 3,000 members in Albania and is pressing the government to accept its arbitrations as part of the legal process.
"I have a good reputation and my father was a man of good reputation, too," says Mr Mekshi. "I am approached to arrange truces by those who are in hiding and dare not go out during the day. When we agree a deal, we sanctify the arrangement with a procession led by the local priest."
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BELGRADE, 18 January 1999
On 15 January 1999, in the early morning, in an attempt to arrest a terrorist group, police officers blocked the village of Racak, municipality of Stimlje.
In the village of Racak, five days before this arrest operation, the terrorist group killed police officer Svetislav Przic. This terrorist group committed many criminal acts of terrorism punishable under Article 125 of the Penal Code of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, by killing police officers Sinisa Mihajlovic, Nazmija Aluri and Svetislav Przic, a member of the Urosevac police reserve, Stimlje police station (they were killed in attacks carried out on 10 September and 29 October 1998 and on 10 January 1999); Sasa Jankovic and Ranko Djordjevic, members of the Gnjilane police reserve (killed on 2 August and 12 October 1998), and by killing civilians Miftar Resani (on 31 December 1998) and Enver Gasi (on 2 January 1999). In the municipalities of Urosevac and Stimlje, this terrorist group abducted members of the Albanian as well as of the Romany ethnic group and burned the house of Djemalj Bitici, an Albanian from the village of Racak (on 18 November 1998).
In the approaches to the village of Racak, the terrorist groups attacked police officers from trenches, bunkers and fortifications, using automatic weapons, portable grenade launchers and mortars. In this attack police officer Goran Vucicevic was wounded while a number of official vehicles of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Serbia were damaged. In response to the attack, police officers used firearms and destroyed the terrorist groups. Several dozen of terrorists were killed in the fighting, among who the majority were wearing uniforms with the insignia of the terrorist so called KLA.
On this occasion, police officers confiscated one 12.7mm "Browing" machine gun, two submachine guns, 36 automatic rifles, two snipers, a large amount of ammunition and hand grenades, radios and other military equipment.
The OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission was informed of the beginning of the arrest operation and arrived at the scene of the fighting.
Immediately after the fighting, the police investigating team came to the scene headed by Investigating Magistrate Danica Marinkovic of the Pristina District Court and the Deputy Public Prosecutor Ismet Sufta, but the terrorists who were concentrated in the neighbouring highlands opened fire and prevented the further on-site investigation.
The next day, on 16 January 1999, the on-site investigation was again prevented because the OSCE KVM insisted that the Investigating Magistrate carry out the investigation without the police presence, explaining that the fighting might be resumed.
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13. MAXIM Magazine
Confessions of a Strip Club Bouncer, pp. 132…138
As told by Steve "Sonny Coats" Hart to Jon Hart
I wasn't there the night of the murders. I didn't see the Albanian hit man reach into his jacket, draw his gun and blow away two of my friends. But while working at Scores [a high-priced Topless Dance Club in Manhattan], I've seen plenty of crazy shit…
When Shots Rang Out
…At 4 AM, the club closes. Willie and his girlfriend, Lori, are hanging out, having a few drinks before locking up. Jon, Mike, a few of the dancers, and three Albanians reputed to be hit men are there, too. Everything's pretty low-key until Jon and one of the Albanians start arm wrestling. Jon beats the guy…and then starts laughing. Big mistake. The Albanian lifts Jon up by his shirt. Lori screams, and the Albanian tells her to shut the fuck up. Nobody talks to Willie's girlfriend like that, and Willie instructs Jon and Mike to show the Albanians the door. As Jon's unlocking it, according to my friends, one of the Albanians slips his gun from his jacket and, pulls the trigger four times. Jon goes down. Dead. Mike turns to run. But before he can get away, he takes a bullet. too… His head had been blown off… Five months later, federal and state investigators raided the club, looking for evidence against the Gambino crime family.
A New York Post writer and others tell me the Albanian gunmen were subsequently executed by the Cosa Nostra (Gambino famiglia) as a means of getting the Albanian Mafia back in line.
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14. UN, EU Launch $7.6 Anti-Drug Project in Balkans
SOFIA, Feb. 12, 1999 -- (Reuters) The United Nations and the European Union launched a $7.6 million project on Thursday to combat drug traffic through Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania, three countries on the notorious Balkan route.
"Drug trafficking in Europe is growing. It was realized no country could defeat it on its own. The only way to stop it is to work together," Joem Kristensen, U.N. Drug Control Program (UNDCP) senior program manager, told reporters.
In its first phase the project will include Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania, which lie on a drug trafficking route for smuggling heroin and hashish from southwest Asia, particularly Afghanistan, to Western Europe, Kristensen said.
Some 80 percent of drugs supplied to Europe originate in Afghanistan and are mostly smuggled along this route, he said.
Kristensen said the three-year project could later include other countries in the region, such as Turkey and Yugoslavia.
Kristensen said the war in former Yugoslavia had forced traffickers to find alternatives to the more direct route through Turkey, Bulgaria and former Yugoslavia, such as the route via Romania.
"The peace that followed the war in Yugoslavia re-established the old routes, but previous one still continue to exist, so there are now more smuggling groups, more routes, and maybe the challenge we are now facing is bigger," he said.
"The situation has now become more difficult and we have to undertake new opportunities to fight drug trafficking."
The project will offer police and customs officials in the three Balkan states advanced training in profiling techniques and provide them with modern drug detection equipment and drug-sniffing dogs.
The project also provides for setting up sophisticated criminal data analysis systems to aid police investigations.
Two thirds of the project's budget will come from the European Commission while the remainder is expected from UNDCP donors.
According to UNDCP data, an average of more than a tonne of heroin and over 10 tonnes of hashish are seized along the Balkan route each year.
Bulgaria, which lies between Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania, seized 220 lbs (100 kg) of heroin last year, compared to 688 lbs (312 kg) in 1997, figures collated by the country's Chief Customs Directorate showed. ( (c) 1999 Reuters)
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15. BBC crew robbed by armed men in northeast Albania
LONDON, April 14 (Reuters) - The British Broadcasting Corporation said three staff covering the Kosovo crisis were held up and robbed in northeast Albania on Wednesday by two masked men armed with Kalashnikovs.
Correspondent Jeremy Bowen, cameraman Vaughan Smith and a translator were physically manhandled but were not injured in the incident in which the robbers fired about a dozen rounds into the air, the BBC said in a statement.
`Everything they had, including all their camera equipment, flak jackets and money, was taken but not the tape they filmed today,'' it said.
The BBC said the three managed to make their way back to their base in the town of Kukes from where they filed a report for Wednesday night's television news bulletins.
Albania is a frequently lawless country and has made little progress economically since emerging from communist isolation in 1990.
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16. CRISIS IN KOSOVO
Kosovars also finding enemies among their hosts
By Anne Kornblut, Globe Staff, 04/14/99
KUKES, Albania - Aziz Sallahu began his refugee odyssey afraid only of the Serbs, who had driven his family out of the Kosovar town of Suhareka into the hills of northern Albania. Yesterday, he stood shivering n the rain, fearing a new threat: Albanians.
As explosions rocked the neighboring hills, indicating that Serb forces had made an incursion across the border, reports flew through the refugee camp that Albanian gangsters were on the prowl for unarmed Kosovars, and local police said bandits had hijacked a refugee vehicle on its way to Tirana the night before. A mob attacked a US military helicopter delivering humanitarian relief yesterday morning, according to officials, looting stacks of tents and food.
Still, most refugees gushed with gratitude for the Albanian government that has received them with open arms and Sallahu, 18, said he felt ''safer than in Kosovo.'' But he shook his head in disbelief when he considered that the refugees are being victimized twice, saying he still felt surrounded by danger.
Armando Foresti, an Albanian who works as a French teacher, said those fears were warranted. ''Sometimes,'' he said, ''we are more Serbian than the Serbs.''
Violence has always been a fact of life in northern Albania, where the central government has virtually no presence and local arms dealers are unofficially king. In recent days, however, several outside agencies stepped up security following carjackings in the border district of Tropolje, including an attack Monday afternoon when three Albanians brandishing Kalashnikov rifles overtook a Land Rover operated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and ordered the passengers out.
Humanitarian agencies have begun warning refugees about the dangers of traveling the winding northern roads, particularly at night. Jeff Rowland, a spokesman for the UN World Food Program, said it was only a ''matter of time'' before incidents such as the hijacking Monday night occurred.
''Everybody should know that road isn't safe,'' he said. ''Bandits travel that road all the time.''
Owen O'Sullivan, director of the OSCE office in Kukes, said groups of armed robbers began staking out the border crossings immediately after the refugee influx began, ''eyeing attractive vehicles, eyeing girls for export.''
He said the agency had even received reports of a kidnapped baby, although it could not be independently verified.
''We have had reports of stolen vehicles, racketeering, and tractors being stolen that'' refugees ''had to buy back,'' he said. ''Everything depends on the flow of refugees. Obviously, if there is more traffic on the road, there is more opportunity for the gangsters.''
Incidents of local Albanians stealing food intended for refugees have caused some alarm as well. The problem in part has been the result of chaotic distribution, particularly by local Albanian governments, which only sporadically monitor the aid intended for refugees. Yesterday, a local aid truck tossed piles of clothing and food out the back as it sped along an open field to the refugees, as locals ran behind picking up what they could.
''There is no control whatsoever of who gets what,'' said Catherine Bertini, executive director of the UN World Food Program after watching socks and sweaters fly through the air. ''What's happening with the distribution on the part of the local prefect is disturbing. It's not a good way to be sure that relief gets distributed to the right people.''
When two helicopters carrying an American aid shipment landed Monday night, there were no distribution trucks to meet them. Dozens of local residents sneaked into the camp where the shipment had been unloaded and stole perhaps as much as half of the 40-ton delivery of nutritional formula, sleeping bags and tents, officials said.
Although refugees were among the looters as well, villagers were seen carrying cartons of supplies into town last night.
And yet to some of the refugees, at least, the concerns in Albania seem overshadowed by their fear of the Serbian troops assembled along the border. Rowland said, ''The refugees need to be aware of how close the threat is.''
''If I had a trailer with a family of 20 inside, I would take that threat 18 kilometers away very seriously,'' he said.
Although the Serb incursion into Kamenica ended quickly, OSCE monitors said, several refugees who were planning to go to Tirana last night said they would rather risk the bandits than the Serb forces they had fled.
Sallahu said he was ''not really afraid. ... I would still rather be here than there.''
This story ran on page A16 of the Boston Globe on 04/14/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
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The Sunday Times May 16 1999WAR IN EUROPE
John Follain in Rome and Edin Hamzic report on the vice trail from Kosovo
17. Mafia smuggles refugee women into sex slavery
After her husband and young son were murdered by Serbian paramilitaries, Alina fled Kosovo in terror. Nothing, she thought, could be worse than staying in her war-torn homeland. But danger lurked on the other side of the border. Alina, 27, escaped the Serbs only to become a prisoner in Italy, forced into prostitution by her Albanian captors.
Criminal investigators fear Alina's experience could be repeated thousands of times as the exodus of refugees from Kosovo into Albania continues. The United Nations has warned that vulnerable Kosovan women are being forced into prostitution in the European Union by ruthless criminal gangs with long experience of smuggling women and children across borders into EU states.
"Human traffickers are a serious threat, especially in Albania," said Sadako Ogata, the UN high commissioner for refugees. The situation is now so bad that it needs to be "forcefully addressed" by the international community, she believes.
Alina, who lived in Pristina until her husband and son were killed in front of her by masked members of a Serbian militia within days of the Nato airstrikes starting, is one of the first known Kosovan refugees forced into prostitution by Albanian mafia gangs. In early April she was approached by a man in Kukes, at an Albanian refugee camp she had fled to. He said he would find work and a home for her in Italy.
The Albanian drove her to the coast, from where she was smuggled in a speedboat across the Adriatic at night, with other illegal immigrants. She landed somewhere on the coast of southern Italy, to be met by four Albanian men.
They took her to Triggiano, a village south of the port of Bari. There, she later told Italian police, she was confined to a 16 sq metre airless room in a decrepit house with three other young women - Shpresa, 25, from Drenica in Kosovo, and two Albanians. The women had to share two torn mattresses and were fed only tinned food and bread.
Her four guards, who shared the bedroom next door, let her out under escort only at night. "I was already mourning the loss of my husband and my son, and now I was forced to sell my body," Alina said. "The Albanians told me, 'Do this or we will beat you; do this or we will kill you.' "
"This" meant dressing in a miniskirt, fishnet stockings and high heels, packing a few condoms into her handbag and parading the seafront motorway south of Bari, or plying her enforced trade in small towns nearby. The four captives earned 1.5m lire (about £500) each a night - none of which they were allowed to keep.
Alina's ordeal finally ended 10 days ago, when police raided the house. Two of the Albanians escaped arrest by fleeing over the rooftops. The two others, who turned out to be from the Albanian port of Durres, were caught and charged with abetting illegal immigration and prostitution, kidnapping and enslavement, and face several years in jail.
The next day, with a magistrate's approval, Alina headed back to Albania by ferry. Others, however, are sure to take her place. Italian relief workers at refugee camps in Vlore on the Albanian coast have reported visits by men who then leave the camp with young women. In one case, a 16-year-old was taken away from a camp set up by volunteers from Italy's Piemonte region.
The man who took her had a Kalashnikov slung across his back and told relief workers he was a policeman. "There are 2,000 Kosovan refugees in our camp," said Father Giovanni Mercurio, who manages the Rezervat E Shteti centre in Vlore. "For a month now police have been taking girls away and we are not told their destination. But we can't do anything about it."
Relief agencies have reported their concerns to the Italian interior ministry, but a government spokesman said there was little the authorities could do. "The girls are free, the refugee camps are not prisons. They are at liberty to do what they want and that can include being hired by Albanian criminals. The best way to stop that happening," he said, "is to have European countries take in refugees and care for them."
Last year, however, a Sunday Times investigation revealed that girls as young as 14 were being kidnapped or bought from their families in Albania to be sold for £800 each into the white slave trade in Britain. Thousands of women like Alina have been smuggled into Italy by sea and then transported overland to London, Hamburg and other western European cities.
In Durres, The Sunday Times was told that the price had since risen to £1,300. "Albanian mafia gangs are very vicious," a recent Home Office report emphasised. "They make the Italian mafia look like crowd-control officers at a local whist drive."
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18. Albanian gunmen kill Kosovo girl in kidnap attempt
VLORE, Albania, May 25 (Reuters) - Albanian gangsters killed a Kosovo refugee teenager and wounded her father after he tried to prevent them kidnapping her for a prostitution ring, police said on Tuesday.
Five armed men broke into a house rented by ethnic Albanian refugees on the outskirts of this crime-ridden southern city on Monday in search of the 16-year-old girl.
``They were looking for a girl called Jola. Her father, Agim Spasolli, 36, tried to drive them back,'' Vlore police spokesman Ali Hajdini said.
``The gangsters shot both the girl and her father after they failed to separate them,'' Hajdini said.
The girl died later in hospital. Her father was in a critical condition.
Police, who surrounded the area immediately after the shooting, said they were holding five suspects.
Relief agencies in Albania -- home to some 450,000 Kosovo refugees -- have warned that gangs are trying to kidnap young Kosovo girls, some of whom have been raped by Serbian soldiers, to set them up as prostitutes in Italy or Greece.
The Kosovo crisis has been a boon for Vlore mobsters who ferry refugees in speedboats across the Adriatic to Italy, charging several hundred dollars for the trip.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
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Spanish police arrest robbers who funded KLA
MADRID, June 22 (Reuters) - Spanish police said on Tuesday they had arrested eight ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and charged them with carrying out armed robberies to fund separatist guerrillas and humanitarian efforts in their war-torn country.
``They are people who are organised along military lines and who act all over (Spanish) territory,'' a senior police officer said by telephone from the coastal city of Malaga.
A police statement said the funds raised were ``presumably destined for Albano-Kosovar guerrillas.''
``Their modus operandi...suggested a well organised structure and a clear aim -- to finance the Kosovo Liberation Army,'' the police statement said.
The group specialised in breaking into company safes and stealing cargo from trucks, the police officer said.
``They are Kosovans and we have proof that they have maintained contact with Albanian paramilitary groups,'' the officer said.
The eight suspects were arrested on Sunday and Monday in rented apartments in Malaga and the nearby resort of Torremolinos.
``The product of the robberies -- always money, jewellery or documents of value -- reached astronomical figures, but they always transferred it in amounts less than one million pesetas ($6,200), thereby avoiding investigations,'' the statement said.
The police officer said Spain was becoming a favourite base for armed criminal gangs from Eastern Europe because of the country's relatively light sentences for robbery.
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20. KLA Impostors Add to Kosovo Chaos
By MERITA DHIMGJOKA .c The Associated Press
PRIZREN, Yugoslavia (AP) - Muharrem Halluci didn't give it a second thought when someone in a Kosovo Liberation Army uniform impounded his car - the underequipped rebel army often ``borrowed'' vehicles in its fight against much better outfitted Yugoslav forces.
But when Halluci, 54, went to the local KLA headquarters to get the car back after the war's end, rebel army officers told him they knew nothing about the vehicle - or the man who had seized it.
KLA officials say that whenever the rebel army took civilian cars, they provided the owners with official papers and told them when they would give the vehicle back.
``It's a mess,'' Halluci sighed. ``Now a KLA soldier may not be a KLA soldier. He may not even be a Kosovar.''
Amid the chaos of postwar Kosovo, it's difficult to tell genuine KLA fighters from impostors. Just 25 miles down the road in Kukes, Albania, KLA uniforms sell for about $30. Refugees buy them so that they can return home looking like heroes. Thieves and smugglers from across the border in Albania use them as a disguise.
Kosovo - where NATO has been struggling since mid-June to restore law and order after a 78-day bombing campaign - has fast become a land of opportunity for anyone seeking a fast buck.
At the Yugoslav-Albanian border, routine controls have broken down. During the war, fleeing ethnic Albanians were stripped of their documents and license plates. Now, according to Albanian police who spoke on condition of anonymity, any Albanian-speaking person who claims to be a refugee is allowed to cross into Kosovo - even those without passports or license plates on their vehicles.
Police say the ranks of the refugees include Albanian criminals anxious to take part in the looting of Serb homes or establish smuggling rings in Kosovo, which had a much higher living standard than Albania.
On the Yugoslav side of the border, German peacekeepers routinely stop cars and tractors trying to cross into Albania loaded with goods that the Germans suspect have been stolen in Kosovo.
``One day, we turned back a tractor with a trailer loaded with used furniture,'' said German Lt. Norbert Schindler. He admitted, however, that it is impossible to screen every vehicle.
The Germans also lack both the means and the legal mandate to arrest motorists simply on suspicion that they may have looted goods. If someone is turned back at the border, he can simply wait until the next shift change at the checkpoint and try his luck again.
``With sometimes up to 20,000 people crossing in one day, we simply cannot remember all the faces,'' Schindler said.
But the Germans have taken 60 prisoners, most of whom are accused of looting, car theft and rape.
``They are accused of serious crimes. We will keep them here until the court starts functioning so they can go on trial,'' said Lt. Col Dietmar Jeserich at the German KFOR troops' headquarters here.
He said that about 25 cars are being reported stolen every night, some at gunpoint.
But stealing the neighbor's cows, chickens or roof tiles is considered a minor crime and punishment is only up to three days' detention.
Last week, peacekeepers handed over to Albanian police three robbers who had jumped onto a bus carrying returning refugees and robbed them of jewelry and money.
For Albanians longing to travel abroad, Kosovo is now the only place they can visit without a visa. For some, it's also a good place to do business - legal or otherwise.
In the streets of Prizren, Kosovo's second-largest city, farmers from Albania sell fruit and vegetables out of their trucks at sky-high prices. Others work as unlicensed taxi drivers or offer black-market gasoline, brought over from Albanian at $5.20 a gallon.
``Now that the refugees are leaving Albania, the world will forget about us again,'' said Kadri Resuli, 35, an Albanian from a village near Kukes as he peddled cigarettes on a roadside. ``We helped them during these months, now they should help us.''
AP-NY-07-01-99 0256EDT Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.
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