Enter content here
Photos Above; Bulgarian Independence Day, 3 March 2002. Source: News.bg
Shipka, Bulgarian Independence Day, 3 March 2002. Source: Mediapool.bg
UÇK Training Camps In Albania.
Reality Macedonia - Time
You're in the Army Now. No longer a guerrilla rabble, the K.L.A. is getting its act together--and posing a diplomatic threat.
BY MASSIMO CALABRESI/TIRANA
Monday, Jun. 07, 1999
Hidden in the hills two hours east of the Albanian capital Tirana is a diplomatic time bomb. In a disused communist-era military base in an area called Feken, the Albanian army is training rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army to fight the Serbs across the border in Yugoslavia. The rebels, who started five years ago as a handful of hit-and-run bandits, have grown to several thousand devoted volunteers bent on freeing Kosovo from Serb rule, but they still lack expertise in much of the basics of warfare. "They come here and they don't know anything," says Albanian army Lieut. Shkumbin Bileri at a checkpoint outside the camp. "We teach them everything. We need to help them. They are our brothers."
The sentiment is understandable: Albanians everywhere were shocked as close to a million of their ethnic brethren were driven from Kosovo by the forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, indicted last week by the Hague Tribunal for war crimes. But for the West, Albania's collaboration with the Kosovar rebels is bad news. The U.S. and its allies fear the war in Kosovo could spread, either through Serb attacks across international borders or through rebel attempts to liberate other ethnic Albanian enclaves neighboring Kosovo in Macedonia and Montenegro. The Albanian army's training of the K.L.A. makes both of those possibilities more likely--it gives the Serbs a casus belli against Albania proper and creates a better-trained, more dangerous rebel movement that can take its fight beyond Kosovo.
The U.S. knows about the training camp. In mid-May, according to several K.L.A. rebels interviewed independently by TIME, Commander Tom Meek, defense attache to the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, visited Feken with his British counterpart, Captain Graham Wiltshire. Arriving around 10 a.m., they stayed until late afternoon inspecting the K.L.A. training routine, the rebels say. Neither the U.S Embassy in Tirana nor Commander Meek nor Captain Wiltshire would comment when asked about the visit. Nor would the U.S. Embassy spokesman or the State Department in Washington comment on the Albanian government's involvement with the K.L.A.
If the U.S. is studiously looking the other way, the Albanian government is feigning blindness. "There are not any kind of training camps," says Sokol Gjoka, spokesman for the Albanian Foreign Ministry. "It's not true." At most, he says, Kosovar men who have accompanied their families to safety in Albania may meet at "gathering points" before returning to Kosovo.
But there's more than "gathering" going on at the camp at Feken. The base consists of eight barn-like single-story whitewashed buildings with rusty roofs. Albanian flags hang from many walls and the Kosovar acronym for the rebel army.
"It's a lot of marching and some target shooting," says Afrim, a 27-year-old trainee from the Drenica region of Kosovo, who like many others has returned from emigre life elsewhere in Europe to fight the Serbs. There are some 15 Albanian army and Defense Ministry officials training the soldiers in artillery and small arms use, chemical warfare protection and the handling of mines, according to Afrim and other trainees. The rebels appreciate what the Albanian officers are teaching them. "Most of them do a great job," says one rebel platoon leader.
Still, the training is unlikely to turn the rebels into a modern army overnight--the Albanian army, after all, is hardly Europe's most advanced. But the possibilities for a wider war are a concern. NATO tried and failed last week to persuade the Albanian army to cancel a live-fire military exercise on the border with Kosovo for fear that it would provoke an attack by the Serbs. The Albanians held the exercises anyway, under the watchful eye of U.S. and other NATO observers. And if a live-fire exercise makes the allies nervous, outright cooperation between Albania and the rebels makes them even more jittery. "It could give the Serbs a pretext, if they needed one, to cause more trouble on the border," says one U.S. diplomat.
The rebels at Feken aren't concerned. Around 5 p.m. last Thursday the camp was filled with patriotic songs as some 150 rebels, their training finished, boarded trucks for the front line. Firing into the air and singing along to the tinny loudspeakers, they rolled out of the camp, taking with them in their new skills a potentially dangerous escalation of the war in Kosovo.
Reported by Altin Rraxhimi and Jan Stojaspal/Feken and Douglas.
3 Iraqi Terror Suspects Arrested.
Reality Macedonia - Fokus.bg
Sofia, 03.03.2002, (Fokus) - Bulgarian site Focus.bg reported that Macedonian police arrested three citizens of Iraq. The arrest came as a result of an ambush, which police set up after a tip-off illegal entry of foreigners in the country.
It is still unknown whether this group of terror suspects had any connections with the group of Mujahadeen neutralized Saturday morning near Skopje.
In addition, Focus.bg, citing Russian Information Agency Novosti (RIA Novosti), announced that the group of seven killed Mujahadeens came to Macedonia from Kosovo.