Kosovo rebels engaged in a major offensive have received their first known NATO air support in an unsuccessful bid to seize Serbian territory along the Albanian border, according to U.S. intelligence and military officials.
Operation Arrow, involving up to 4,000 Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas, was launched last week to drive into Kosovo from two points across its southwestern border with Albania in hopes of capturing control of the highway linking Prizren and Pec, according to KLA fighters in Albania and military officials in Washington. The offensive–the rebels’ first major assault in a year–also was meant to show NATO and Yugoslavia that they are “still in the fight,” according to a senior U.S. intelligence official.
NATO and the Clinton administration have denied helping the KLA directly and have asserted they want the secessionist force disarmed as part of an eventual peace settlement with President Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslav government. But U.S. intelligence officials said NATO responded last week to “urgent” KLA pleas for air support to rebuff a Serb counterattack on Mount Pastrik just inside Kosovo.
In addition, NATO planes hit targets in or near the villages of Bucane and Ljumbarda, which the officials said enabled the rebel forces to capture the villages. The bombings marked the first known air support by NATO aircraft for the Kosovo rebels.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle, newspapers throughout Europe such as the Times of London, and other sources have published recent reports on alleged ties between the KLA, and the drug trade and Europe’s crime syndicate. The involvement in drug sales, it is alleged, is used to fund the KLA’s activities.
- Shinasi Rama, Spokesperson for the Provisional Government of Kosova and the K.L.A. He is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Columbia University, the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Albanian Studies, and the leader of the student movement that toppled Albania’s Communist regime.
- George Kenney, former State Department official who resigned over U.S. policy in Bosnia.
- Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa, member of the Ad Hoc Committee to Stop Canada’s Participation in the War in Yugoslavia.
- Tim Judah, a journalist based in London. During the wars in Croatia and Bosnia he lived in Belgrade, writing for the Times of London and the Economist. He is the author of the book ??The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, and recently wrote “Inside the KLA” in the June 10th edition of the New York Review of Books.