4 June--The following excerpts from the British press (with one from the Washington Post) document the deepening collusion between the Kosovo Liberation Army and NATO after 26 April (the date of our last statement on the subject).
London Evening Standard (website) 27 April 1999
Nato may help KLA attack Serbs
by Peter Almond and Chris Stephen in Kukes, Albania
Nato forces in Albania appeared ready today to exploit a fresh Kosovo Liberation Army offensive against Serb forces in Kosovo.
At the weekend British and US defence attaches from Albania's capital Tirana visited KLA bases around the Albanian mountain town of Bajram Curri.
The KLA now holds a rectangular-shaped piece of mountainous wooded territory, anchored on the Albanian border. The main supply route is precarious - Serbian artillery constantly targets the border village of Pagarusha.
A further 20 kilometres away are rebel forces around the village of Glodjane, but KLA commanders say only Nato has the firepower to break through a line of tanks, infantry and artillery.
A primitive communications link has now been established between the KLA and Nato, via a satellite fax phone operated inside the province. Faxes are sent to three KLA officials in Brussels, who in turn relay these to Nato.
From today, the US says Apache "tank busting" helicopters based in Albania will be ready for service, raising the possibility that they would lead the assault against Junik. Last night an Apache crashed on a training mission in Albania, but the two crewmen were reported to be in good condition.
Western diplomats say Nato has requested targeting information from the guerrillas on the locations for Serbian artillery positions. "The co-ordinates have been fed in, Nato hasn't responded yet," said one Western diplomat.
He said Nato was first keen on assurances from the KLA that it did not want to seize power if the Serbs pulled out of the province. In Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian rebel commander, contacted by satellite telephone from Austria, said Nato attacks were having a serious impact on Serb forces.
Guardian 11 May 1999
Evidence belies Serbian claim of guerrillas' defeat
The KLA: Fighters claim to hold enclaves inside Kosovo .
Yugoslavia's claim that the defeat of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) lies behind its offer of a partial withdrawal of Serb forces from the province flies in the face of evidence on the ground and from Nato reconnaissance flights that KLA activity has been increasingly effective and widespread.
Western observers confirmed that Kosovan guerrillas had consolidated their hold on the Kosare area partly as a result of Nato air strikes against Serbian artillery and tank positions on the surrounding hills and villages, at Morina, Planik and Ponosheci.
Asked if there was evidence of active coordination between Nato and the KLA, one western official said: 'There is no direct proof, but as a military man, I would be surprised if there was not.'
Another KLA officer at Kosare, Hysen Berisha, said Nato bombing had been 'helpful' but was not the result of coordination. 'They do their job and we do ours,' he said.
The Independent (Robert Fisk) 15 May 1999
When I asked for Nato's reaction to the KLA appointment of one of the most notorious ethnic cleansers as its new military commander - Agim Ceku, one of the planners of Croatia's ethnic cleansing of 300,000 Serbs in Krajina - Mr Shea said he had no comment because "Nato has no direct contact with the KLA".
This is totally untrue. Nato liaises with the KLA, holds security and intelligence meetings with its commanders, maintains radio contact with KLA men in Kosovo. Nato officials (including J Shea Esq) regularly announce KLA operations with approval.
The Independent on Sunday 16 May 1999
War in The Balkans - SAS teams 'fighting behind Serb lines'
REVEALED: Allied special forces are secretly on the offensive in Kosovo, say KLA commanders
By Hugh Barnes
British and US special forces have gone on the offensive in Kosovo, according to commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) working with them. The secret guerrilla war behind Serb lines is being fought with the help of KLA men hand-picked from camps in northern Albania.
Already two allied soldiers, including a member of Britain's Special Air Service regiment, have been killed in the operation codenamed "Picnic", said a top KLA commander, while the rebel army itself has lost "dozens of men" as a result of the covert raids.
Speaking from a KLA camp in Babine, between the northern Albanian town of Bajram Curri and the Kosovo border, Shpend Gjocaj revealed that British and American special forces originally entered the Serbian province in the early hours of 21 March, three days before the start of the Nato air strikes against Yugoslavia.
But the Serbs' success at concealing themselves from air attacks had led to a decision to send larger formations deep into enemy territory, said Mr Gjocaj. General Wesley Clark, Nato's supreme commander, gave the order, he said, after consulting Hasim Thaci, the KLA's leader and head of a provisional government declared by the few rebel units left in Kosovo.
Serbian forces have proved adept at using tunnels, natural camouflage and underground hideouts to avoid attack from Allied planes flying at a medium altitude of 16,000 ft to minimise the risk of anti-aircraft fire. "We are helping the special forces to get in low and identify where the targets are," said Mr Gjocaj, who is the ethnic Albanians' liaison officer in the rapid training and deployment of KLA troops by US, British and French airborne regiments.
Using the 82nd Airborne Division and other air-mobile forces, the object of the "Picnic" teams has been to find out where exactly in Kosovo the Serbs' 40,000 troops and 300 or so armoured vehicles actually are. So far Nato has dismissed Belgrade's claims that it has already started to withdraw its forces from the stricken province.
The switch in tactics was acknowledged last week by Nato's Major-General Walter Girts, who referred obliquely to "improvements in intelligence gathering", and said the alliance was now succeeding in attacking targets identified by "spotter" missions. He declined to comment on KLA reports that Western soldiers had been killed behind enemy lines.
The Ministry of Defence said an SAS sergeant had been killed in a road accident in Bosnia, but TA-Europe, a French newsletter specialising in defence issues, reported that an SAS soldier was lost behind Yugoslav lines in Kosovo on 26 April.
According to KLA sources, the "Picnic" teams were again flown into Kosovo by helicopter last Monday, crossing the border with Macedonia and landing in the rubble of Malisevo, a town in the Drenica valley formerly occupied by the KLA and proclaimed a liberated capital of "free Kosovo", but later destroyed by the Serbs. The units, made up of 20 to 30 Allied soldiers and up to 100 KLA, moved west towards the villages of Klina and Rugove, near Pec, then towards Prizren, and finally right up to the border with Albania.
A senior KLA commander, who goes by the name of Drini, said the missions were supposed to be what the US Army calls "sterile", which meant the soldiers either wore uniforms that could not be traced to any Allied unit or were disguised in the combat fatigues of the "Black Hand" Serb paramilitaries.
Known for internal divisions and for a lack of self-discipline, the KLA appears to be struggling with the special forces' legendary code of secrecy, however. "Outside Urosevac, we found abandoned barracks, concrete-reinforced bunkers, and a tank base acres in size," Drini said, speaking from central Kosovo by telephone. "When you see such a blatant example of the Serb presence, you scream and beg to get somebody to go in there and blast them."
What Drini and his cohorts want most of all, he says, are strikes by the American fleet of 24 Apache helicopters, each of which carries 16 Hellfire anti-tank missiles with a range of five miles. Nato has been slow to deploy the helicopters (one of which crashed on a training exercise shortly after arriving in Tirana, while another went down 10 days ago, with the loss of its two American pilots).
Voicing his impatience at the deployment of the Apaches and a lethal form of artillery known as Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, whose showers of "steel rain" are capable of killing large numbers of Serb troops on the ground, Drini said: "We have been told these carpet bombing attacks are totally devastating, that nothing can survive."
The MoD [Ministry of Defence] said it was aware of reports but never commented on SAS activities. Military analysts say the covert ground offensive is intended to signal to Belgrade that Nato's political leadership, while pressing for peace, is willing to take risks so far avoided in what has been exclusively, and frustratingly for military strategists, an air war.
The Sunday Times 16 May 1999
America in secret moves to aid KLA
In the Albanian border town of Bajram Curri last week, four American Humvees - imposing armoured vehicles with V-shaped suspension for rough terrain - drew up in the courtyard of the Mount Shkelzeni hotel. American soldiers in camouflage uniforms sat in the turrets behind mounted machineguns.
Asked what they were doing at this bleak last stop before the mountain bases of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), one of the soldiers fingered the trigger of his machinegun.
"We're here to do a public affairs survey - you know, roads, schools, things like that," he said, grinning through his southern drawl to indicate that he did not expect his explanation to be believed. "They got any good ice cream in this town?"
The Americans and the KLA are coy about their relationship. Bajram Curri is famous in Albania only for its bandits, who have stripped arriving journalists of cars, cameras and satellite telephones. Last week the chief of police appeared in a stolen BBC flak jacket.
According to the KLA, however, the American military visitors came to Bajram Curri to assess the terrain and the border fighting with an eye to deploying Apache helicopters against Serbian artillery and tanks on the other side of the mountains.
The secrecy reflects uncertainty in Washington and Europe about the extent to which the KLA, officially designated a terrorist organisation by the United States, should be supported.
There is no doubting that the support for the KLA, the rebel army, is growing. It is not an artificially created movement, such as the contras created by Washington in central America, but one that grew naturally in reaction to Serbian oppression in Kosovo. Its ranks were swelled at first by villagers and political exiles from overseas; now refugee sons and young men from the diaspora arrive daily in Albania from Canada, America, Europe and Australia to take up arms.
Its estimated 10,000 soldiers in Kosovo are the only force that are fighting the Serbs on the ground and would do so far more effectively with co-ordinated Nato air support.
The KLA has captured a 100-square-kilometre rectangle of mountainous land along the Albanian border. Armed only with light weapons, however, it has been unable to break through Serbian armour to reach units stranded since Nato started bombing in March.
Last week, in the heaviest fighting this month, the Serbs poured artillery fire into KLA lines at Rasa, above the Serbian-held village of Batusa, for three hours beginning at 4am. Paratroopers and commandos then rushed the KLA, which lost five men and saw dozens wounded. Soldiers carried comrades with shrapnel wounds and glazed eyes down the hill. But the line held and the Serbs had given up by nightfall.
There had been talk of moving on the large and strategically important town of Junik. But the Serbian offensive, which coincided with claims by the regime of Slobodan Milosevic that its forces were withdrawing, put paid to that.
In his first interview since he was appointed KLA chief of staff, Agim Ceku, a former brigadier-general in the Croatian army, told The Sunday Times by satellite phone last week that Nato's help was urgently needed. "Our guerrilla war will permit us to act all around Kosovo to achieve the goal of expelling the enemy from our country," he said.
"But a military ground intervention by alliance forces is the key for defeating what is the last dictatorship in Europe . . . The co-ordination of Nato's military efforts with KLA general staff would have a strong impact on ending the war."
There is already close co-operation. Senior KLA officials and American representatives meet frequently. In Kukes, the largest town in northern Albania, a KLA officer has been seconded to work with an American team based in the concrete headquarters of the Albanian secret police.
KLA commanders inside Kosovo use this liaison officer to pass on information about Serbian targets and to relay their positions so that they are not inadvertently caught up in Nato raids.
On May 2, Nato jets hit two Serbian positions in southwest Kosovo from which artillery fire was being directed against KLA supply lines. These strikes, repeated periodically, have made the KLA positions in Kosovo more secure.
However, Nato commanders are reluctant to enter into a formal relationship with the KLA command. They have not, for example, provided secure communications channels.
"We are acutely conscious that at some point, in enforcing a peace agreement, we may have to disarm the KLA and even fight them," said one source. "We can't be seen to get too close."
By John Pilger in the New Statesman 17 May 1999
Revealed: the amazing Nato plan, tabled at Rambouillet, to occupy Yugoslavia
The justification for Nato's attack on Serbia, now the outright terror bombing of civilians, was the Serbs' rejection of the "peace accords" drafted at Rambouillet in France in February. The precise terms were never made public, with the British media generally accepting the word of the Foreign Office that the west's aim was to bring peace and autonomy to Kosovo.
This is the big lie of Tony Blair's "crusade for civilisation". Anyone scrutinising the Rambouillet document is left in little doubt that the excuses given for the subsequent bombing were fabricated. The peace negotiations were stage-managed, and the Serbs were told: surrender and be occupied, or don't surrender and be destroyed. The impossible terms, published in full in Le Monde Diplomatique, but not in Britain, show that Nato's aim was the occupation not only of Kosovo, but effectively all of Yugoslavia.
Nothing like this ultimatum has been put to a modern, sovereign European state. Of all the Hitler and Nazi analogies that have peppered the west's propaganda, one is never mentioned - Hitler's proposal in 1938 to the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, that Germany occupy Czechoslovakia because ethnic Germans there had been "tortured", "forced to flee the country" and "prevented from realising the right of nations to self-determination". As a cover for German expansion, Hitler was laying the basis for a "humanitarian intervention", whose fraudulence was no greater than Nato's cover for its own worldwide expansion.
Take chapter seven of the Rambouillet accords. Headed "Status of Multinational Military Implementation Force", it says a Nato force occupying Kosovo must have complete and unaccountable political power,
"immune from all legal process, whether civil, administrative or criminal, [and] under all circumstances and at all times, immune from [all laws] governing any criminal or disciplinary offences which may be committed by Nato personnel in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia . . .Nato personnel shall enjoy . . . with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including associated airspace and territorial waters."
Propaganda is not overlooked. The government of Yugoslavia
"shall, upon simple request, grant all telecommunications services, including broadcast services, needed for [the occupation], as determined by Nato. This shall be free of cost."
And the ideological basis for the occupation is left in no doubt.
"Nato is granted the use of airports, roads, rail and ports without payment of fees, duties, tolls or charge. The economy shall function in accordance with free market principles."
No government anywhere could accept this. It was a deliberate provocation. On 19 March the Kosovo Liberation Army, which Madeleine Albright and Robin Cook had earlier dismissed as terrorists, signed the "accords". The Serbs, of course, refused. And it was not just Milosevic. The elected Yugoslav parliament, reported the New York Times correspondent in Belgrade, "rejected Nato troops in Kosovo [but] supported the idea of a United Nations force to monitor a political settlement there". What amounted to a viable alternative to bombing was ignored in Washington and Brussels. Five days later, Nato attacked. The Serbs had been nicely stitched up.
There is plenty of evidence that the bombing was pre-ordained. On 12 August 1998, the US Senate Republican Policy Committee commented:
"Planning for a US-led Nato intervention in Kosovo is now largely in place. The only missing element seems to be an event - with suitably vivid media coverage - that could make the intervention politically saleable . . . That Clinton is waiting for a 'trigger' in Kosovo is increasingly obvious."
On 25 March, the day after the bombing began, the Defence Secretary, George Robertson, described Nato's aim as "clear-cut". It was, he said,
"to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe by disrupting the violent attacks currently being carried out by the Yugoslav security forces against the Kosovan Albanians".
A UN report contradicted this, putting the balance of violence between Serb and Albanian paramilitaries at roughly equal. Moreover, Clinton was warned by the CIA that bombing was likely to spark mass ethnic cleansing.
On 30 April, sitting among top military brass on HMS Invincible, George Robertson said Nato had never expected to prevent a humanitarian disaster. This was the opposite of his "clear-cut" announcement five weeks earlier. Like Clinton, he and Blair must have been forewarned of the refugee catastrophe their actions would ignite.
General Satish Nambiar, an Indian, was the head of the United Nations Mission in Yugoslavia from 1992 to 1993. Recently he wrote:
"I felt that Yugoslavia was a media-generated tragedy . . . The Yugoslav government had, after all, indicated its willingness to abide by nearly all provisions of the Rambouillet 'agreement' on aspects like a ceasefire and greater autonomy to the Albanians. But they would not agree to station Nato forces on the soil of Yugoslavia. This is precisely what India would have done under the same circumstances. It was the west that proceeded to escalate the situation under the current senseless bombing campaign that smacks of hurt egos, revenge and retaliation. Nato's massive bombing appears no different from the morality of the actions of the Serb forces in Kosovo."
With thanks to the Washington newsletter "Counter Punch"
The Guardian May 18, 1999
Acts of murder
by John Pilger
The room is filled with the bodies of children killed by Nato in Surdulica in Serbia. Several are recognisable only by their sneakers. A dead infant is cradled in the arms of his father. These pictures and many others have not been shown in Britain; it will be said they are too horrific. But minimising the culpability of the British state when it is engaged in criminal action is normal; censorship is by omission and misuse of language. The media impression of a series of Nato 'blunders' is false. Anyone scrutinising the unpublished list of targets hit by Nato is left in little doubt that a deliberate terror campaign is being waged against the civilian population of Yugoslavia.
Eighteen hospitals and clinics and at least 200 nurseries, schools, colleges and students' dormitories have been destroyed or damaged, together with housing estates, hotels, libraries, youth centres, theatres, museums, churches and 14th-century monasteries on the World Heritage list. Farms have been bombed, their crops set on fire. As Friday's bombing of the Kosovo town of Korisa shows, there is no discrimination between Serbs and those being 'saved'. Every day, three times more civilians are killed by Nato than the daily estimate of deaths of Kosovans in the months prior to the bombing.
The British people are not being told about a policy designed largely by their government to cause such criminal carnage. The dissembling of politicians and the lies of 'spokesmen' set much of the news agenda. There is no sense of the revulsion felt throughout most of the world for this wholly illegal action, for the punishment of Milosevic's crime with a greater crime and for the bellicose antics of Blair, Cook and Robertson, who have made themselves into international caricatures.
'There was no need of censorship of our dispatches. We were our own censors,' wrote Philip Gibbs, the Times correspondent in 1914-18. The silence is different now; there is the illusion of saturation coverage, but the reality is a sameness and repetition and, above all, political safety for the perpetrators.
A few days before the killing of make-up ladies and camera operators in the Yugoslav television building, Jamie Shea, Nato's man, wrote to the International Federation of Journalists: 'There is no policy to attack television and radio transmitters.' Where were the cries of disgust from among the famous names at the BBC, John Simpson apart? Who interrupted the mutual back-slapping at last week's Royal Television Society awards? Silence. The news from Shepherd's Bush is that BBC presenters are to wear pinks, lavender and blues which 'will allow us to be a bit more conversational in the way we discuss stories'.
Here is some of the news they leave out. The appendix pages of the Rambouillet 'accords', which have not been published in Britain, show Nato's agenda was to occupy not just Kosovo, but all of Yugoslavia. This was rejected, not just by Milosevic, but by the elected Yugoslav parliament, which proposed a UN force to monitor a peace settlement: a genuine alternative to bombing. Clinton and Blair ignored it.
Britain is attacking simultaneously two countries which offer no threat. Every day Iraq is bombed and almost none of it is news. Last week, 20 civilians were killed in Mosul, and a shepherd and his family were bombed. The sheep were bombed. In the last 18 months, the Blair government has dropped more bombs than the Tories dropped in 18 years.
Nato is suffering significant losses. Reliable alternative sources in Washington have counted up to 38 aircraft crashed or shot down, and an undisclosed number of American and British special forces killed. This is suppressed, of course.
Anti-bombing protests reverberate around the world: 100,000 people in the streets of Rome (including 182 members of the Italian parliament), thousands in Greece and Germany, protests taking place every night in colleges and town halls across Britain. Almost none of it is reported. Is it not extraordinary that no national opinion poll on the war has been published since April 30?
'Normalisation,' wrote the American essayist Edward Herman, depends on 'a division of labour in doing and rationalising the unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of individuals... [and] others working on improved technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive Napalm). It is the function of experts and the mainstream media to normalise the unthinkable for the general public.'
This week, the unthinkable will again be normalised when Nato triples the bombing raids to 700 a day. This includes blanket bombing by B-52s. Blair and Clinton and the opaque-eyed General Clark, apologist for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, are killing and maiming hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent people in the Balkans. No contortion of intellect and morality, nor silence, will diminish the truth that these are acts of murder. And until there is a revolt by journalists and broadcasters, they will continue to get away with it. That is the news.
BBC TV (website) 20 May 1999
by Jacky Rowland in Pristina, Kosovo
Many displaced Kosovo Albanian refugees have settled in other parts of Kosovo, reportedly without harassment from the Serbian security forces. These examples stand in stark contrast to persistent reports from refugees arriving in Macedonia and Albania of serious human rights abuses committed in Kosovo. In the village of Svetlje in northern Kosovo, hundreds of young Albanian men can be seen wandering around or sitting on the grass. They belong to a group of about 2,000 refugees who have settled in Svetlje after weeks on the road in northern Kosovo.
Degrees of freedom
At the beginning of the Nato bombing campaign, the refugees fled their homes in the Podujevo region. Some of them were told to leave by the police; others left because they were afraid. They worked their way south towards Pristina where some of them were allowed to stay. Then, according to the refugees, the police opened up a corridor for them, allowing them to move northward again. Some of them came to rest in Svetlje.
The refugees say the security forces leave them alone, even though there are clearly supporters of the Kosovo Liberation Army in their midst. "The police come here only to sell us cigarettes," they said.
No evidence of Nato allegations
Meanwhile, in the south we were unable to find any evidence of the tens of thousands of refugees who Nato alleges are being kept here by the security forces near the town of Urosevac. One Kosovo Albanian man told us he drove his horse and cart from his village to the town every day, and has not seen large numbers of refugees in the area. He and his family continue to live in their village, while Serbs live in the village next door.
These stories stand in sharp contrast to the testimonies of massacres heard from many refugees arriving in Albania and Macedonia, and they suggest a far more complex picture of refugee movements in Kosovo and the behaviour of the security forces.
Scotland on Sunday, 23 May 1999
Kosovo is a complicated place. Things are not as clear cut as the stories from the refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia suggest. Yes there has been ethnic cleansing. But other refugees have been able to stay and some are even receiving new identity documents from the Serb authorities. Some say they feel safe here, at least for the time being. It is Nato's attacks that now present the greater danger to some Kosovo Albanians.
Daily Telegraph 24 May 1999
'Step up bombing of our wrecked homeland'
Kosovan Albanians want the Nato bombardment of Yugoslavia to be stepped up, despite the havoc being wreaked on their own homeland in the process. That was the message yesterday from the director of the Kosovo Information Centre in London, Isa Zymberi. During a visit to Nato headquarters in Brussels, he said the Kosovan Albanian community was fully behind the campaign and urged the allies not to compromise on their five conditions for peace.
The conditions include the complete withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and police from Kosovo and the return of the expelled refugees under the protection of an international peacekeeping force.
"The Albanians in general and the Kosovan Albanians in particular, are 100 per cent behind Nato," said Mr Zymberi.
"Although Kosovo has seen destruction as never before, although the people of Kosovo have been subjected to genocide and suffering of enormous proportions, they continue to ask for an intensification of the Nato campaign."
He said there was no doubt that Nato would defeat the "morally bankrupt" regime of President Slobodan Milosevic.
"The Albanians strongly believe that the Nato victory will include the total fulfilment of the five Nato demands.
"These demands cannot be modified or changed in any way. Deviation from these demands would make a Nato victory incomplete."
His support came on the 62nd day of the air campaign, as the allies continued to target Yugoslav troops on the ground in Kosovo and strategic targets in Yugoslav generally, including the destruction of electricity transformers, blacking out much of the country.
Earlier Germany made it clear it did not want Nato troops to be sent in until a peace deal was secured.
The Scotsman 24 May 1999
ONE thing is clear from NATO's latest bombing blunder in Kosovo - its officers do not read media reports. For more than a month beforehand, regular reports on who controlled which small parts of this mountain were fed back to the alliance on a satellite fax link from rebels based at Kosare.
Visiting Kosare on assignment for The Scotsman two days before the building was hit, I was told by KLA officers that they frequently sent NATO targeting information on Serb units opposing them.
Last night, the KLA leader, Hasim Thaci, said he accepted that the bombing was a "technical mistake". The KLA is trying to convince NATO of its democratic credentials, hoping this will lead to the alliance giving it better air support. Senior officials said the mistake had been made and nothing would be gained by criticising NATO, with Mr Thaci saying: "Air strikes must continue."
The Herald (Glasgow), 24 May 1999
This war was triggered off by the refusal of Milosevic to sign the Rambouillet Agreement that called for Kosovar autonomy within Yugoslavia. What we were not told was that there was an appendix B to this agreement that provides for the unfettered military occupation of the whole of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by Nato personnel. The proposals on Kosovar autonomy and appendix B were presented as an "indissoluble package". No nation could accept these terms. Yugoslavia's refusal was welcomed by Nato. At Rambouillet, the Kosovar Albanians, who had initially rejected the agreement, were persuaded to accept on the grounds that Belgrade couldn't possibly accept these terms, thereby giving Nato the excuse it needed to bomb Yugoslavia. This is a dirty war.
The Independent 29 May 1999
The head of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army was due to pay a visit to Nato headquarters yesterday. Nato stressed that Hashim Thaci's visit was "informal" and that he would not be meeting the secretary general of Nato, Javier Solana. But it could only be seen as a sign of growing co-ordination between the Kosovo guerrillas and the alliance. The top intelligence officer for the US joint chiefs of staff, Rear-Admiral Thomas Wilson, said the KLA has tripled in size - from about 5,000 troops in March to at least 15,000 now.
The Guardian 31 May 1999
Hashim Thaci, the KLA's 31-year-old political leader, slipped out of the province a few days ago and yesterday held talks with Robin Cook, the foreign secretary. Earlier, he met Strobe Talbott, the US deputy secretary of state, and in Paris, the French foreign minister.
The KLA has long been pushing for Nato ground troops to go into Kosovo. Mr Thaci refuses to criticise any aspect of the bombing campaign or Nato's increasing emphasis on hitting power stations, water supply facilities, and bridges.
"The air strikes should continue and be intensified. They have our full support. Without them things would be worse in Kosovo. It would be a tragedy," he says.
He acknowledges that the situation for the thousands of Kosovans inside the territory is "very difficult". "Half the population is still there. They are trying to hang on in very difficult conditions. The KLA is trying to defend them and get them food."
He claims the Yugoslav army is weaker than it was, thanks to Nato bombing. "It no longer has the level of morale it had at the beginning. It is seriously disorganised, and there are numerous cases of troops disobeying orders. Protests are also growing among Serb civilians. They are convinced they've lost the war."
Mr Thaci does not deny that western governments may be arming the KLA. "We are getting weapons from our democratic western friends," he says. Asked if that means from governments, he smiles: "Perhaps. History will reveal all."
The Herald (Glasgow) 1 June 1999
KLA moves in under cover of air strikes
Nato acknowledged yesterday that its air strikes were benefiting Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas in their fight with Yugoslav forces for control of a key mountaintop in southern Kosovo, and said KLA fighters had also taken three villages after allied air strikes had driven Serb forces out.
"We have a clear objective of striking at the Yugoslav forces wherever they are in Kosovo...and if the KLA are able to benefit from that, so be it," spokesman Jamie Shea said. "Certainly they have been the indirect beneficiaries of Nato actions. In fact, last week, they were able to occupy three villages where the Yugoslav forces had withdrawn under the onslaught of the Nato strike," he said.
The Times 1 June 1999
Air attack boosts KLA offensive
Nato yesterday bombed Yugoslav Army and Serb police positions around the Morine border crossing southeast of Prizren, directly helping the Kosovo Liberation Army in its chaotic attempt to forge a supply corridor from northern Albania through the same area.
The raids could not have come at a better time for the KLA. Sources have admitted that its latest attempt to forge a corridor into Kosovo has stalled in chaos.
A spokesman said yesterday that the KLA had withdrawn from around Gorazhub in agreement with Nato, allowing the strikes to go ahead and avoiding the embarrassment of another raid on a position already taken by the guerrillas.
Financial Times 1 June 1999
Strikes benefit KLA fighters
Nato acknowledged its air strikes were benefiting Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas in their fight with Yugoslav forces for control of a mountaintop in southern Kosovo. It said the KLA had also taken three villages after Nato strikes.
2 June 1999
NATO Gives Air Support To Kosovo Guerrillas
But Yugoslavs Repel Attack From Albania
By Dana Priest and Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writers
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.
The assault was foiled, however, by heavy Yugoslav artillery and agile counterattacks by Yugoslav troops, the officials reported. The outcome showed that the Yugoslav military in Kosovo -- a rebellious province of Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic -- remains capable of major military action despite NATO assertions that after 70 days of bombing, troops are suffering from fuel shortages, equipment losses and plummeting morale.
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. It was unclear whether the attacks represented the only such direct air support, which a senior Yugoslav military officer said last week is routine. In any case, the KLA benefits from daily attacks by NATO along the border.
NATO military officials explained that the week's rebel activity provoked a massing of Yugoslav forces that is increasingly rare and provided NATO warplanes with what a spokesman at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Gen. Walter Jertz, called a "target-rich environment." NATO warplanes destroyed 84 pieces of military equipment yesterday, he said, including tanks, artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and armored personnel carriers.
Jertz and officials at the Pentagon, however, denied any direct link between the actions of NATO warplanes and rebel forces.
Asked if NATO and the KLA are coordinating strategies, a KLA official in Tirana, Albania, said that was an "operational detail" he could not divulge. But the official, Visa Reka, added, "I wouldn't say coordination. I would say that NATO is following with much more care and interest what is happening."
KLA and NATO forces in the region are in routine, but limited, telephone contact. NATO also routinely eavesdrops on rebel activity using equipment such as satellites and ground monitoring stations.
A senior U.S. military official said the KLA keeps NATO informed about its positions. For one thing, the KLA wants to make sure NATO does not bomb its forces, which it did by accident two weeks ago in an attack on a barracks in Kosari.
NATO jets operating along the border accidentally bombed government bunkers in northern Albania yesterday, injuring a Kosovo refugee. The aircraft, some of them A-10 Warthog ground attack jets, were attempting to bomb Yugoslav positions just inside Kosovo when they dropped seven bombs on a line of concrete Albanian military bunkers, according to a border monitor for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Several weeks into the air war, U.S. intelligence sources said the KLA was near death. Since then, Pentagon officials and others have pointed out that the rebel force is growing -- with up to 17,000 men -- largely by finding recruits in the radicalized refugee camps inside Albania. It is also receiving new supplies of weapons from the outside, some of which are coming through a Turkish shipping company, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
But as Operation Arrow has shown this week, the guerrilla force is far from being able to present a significant challenge.