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Kosovo Liberation Army

The Kosovo Liberation Army were Albanian-ethnic millitant groups which operated in Kosovo in the late 1990s. Also known by the acronyms KLA and UCK (Albaninan: Ushtria Clirimtare E Kosoves).


The name "Kosovo Liberation Army" was first used in the Republic of Macedonia in 1992. In 1995, beginnings of armed confrontation appeared in Kosovo, when the KLA carried out isolated attacks on Serbian police. The KLA appeared for the first time in public in June 1996, assuming responsibility for a series of acts of sabotage committed against the police stations and policemen in Kosovo and Metohija. After these bombings, Serb authorities named it a terrorist organization.

In 1997-98 KLA carried out numerous attacks on police in Kosovo, and set up roadblocks in the countryside. By May 1998 it effectively controlled a quarter of the province, centered around the region of Drenica, its stronghold being around the village of Donji Prekaz. In the spring and summer of 1998, however, Serbian security forces launched an offensive against the KLA, crushed most of its organization, regained control over most of Kosovo (save for a pocket around the bordertown of Junik) and pushed the remaining KLA into Albania.

The KLA responed by establishing training camps and bases in the mountains of Albania. The Albanian government did little to prevent this, but did not support the KLA officially. The KLA more than regained its strength, and when the Kosovo war broke out on March 24th 1999, KLA was estimated to have 6,000 to 8,000 people in total, 2,000 to 4,000 in Kosovo, and the rest in Albania.

Urged by the war, ethnic Albanians from all over Europe (but mostly from Kosovo) came to Albania to join the KLA. When the war was over in June, it was estimated that KLA had grown to a total of 17,000 to 20,000 in total, with perhaps as many as 15,000 in Kosovo at any time.

According to the agreement between NATO and Yugoslavia of June 1999, the KLA was to be disarmed but this didn't really happen. The KLA was to be transformed into the demilitarized police-like Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC, TMK in Albanian) although some prominent members retained both uniforms and heavy weaponry. To this day, the KPC is a force to be reckoned with in Kosovo, its primary adversaries are non-Albanian minorities and Albanians who did not support the KLA. A new guerrilla group called UCPMB, consisting of KLA veterans, began operating in the demilitarised zone in Southern Serbia in 2000-2001. In the Republic of Macedonia, a new organization also named UCK (Albanian: Ushtria Clirimtare Kombetare) -the National Liberation Army staged a civil war to improve civil rights for ethnic Albanians in 2000-2001.

Political base

The KLA's professed long-term goal was to unite the Albanian populations of Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia and Albania into a greater Albania. This is a rather extremist nationalist stance, which most of the Albanian population in Kosovo did not agree with. The Albanian state does not support this vision, and has been pressured to denounce Albanian rebels in Kosovo and Macedonia to keep a healthy relationship with its neighboring states.

The KLA was not attached to any political party, but had the support of separatist Kosovars wanting a Kosovar state independent of Yugoslavia. During the Kosovo war, even moderate Kosovars, supporters of autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia, such as the Kosovar "president" Ibrahim Rugova[?] supported the KLA.

Organization and financing

Up until February 1998, the KLA had its headquarters in the Drenica region in Kosovo. After that, separate headquarters were established around Pristina and in Albania. According to Serbian accounts, the primary KLA training camps in Albania were Labinot near Tirana, Tropoja, Kuks and Bajram Curri near the Yugoslav-Albanian border. Serbia claims that these locations are also the headquarters for the command and units of the Albanian army and police for the north-eastern part of Albania and the centers for recruiting followers of the overthrown Albanian president Sali Berisha[?].

Numerous allegations have been made that the KLA was financed by organized crime, specifically drug smuggling through Former Yugoslavia. Europol[?] reportedly tied the KLA to criminal syndicates in Albania, Turkey and the European Union. more on this later...

see also Kosovo War

The KLA insignia

The KPC insignia

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