TUE, 20 APR 1999 07:51:58 GMT
AIM Tirena, April 19,1999
KUKES, NORTHERN ALBANIA. After the turn of Kalimash, about 20 kilometers before entering Kukes it seems you have just arrived to Kosovo or in its territories controlled by Kosovo Liberation Army. A group of young militaries (among them there is a girl) with mimetic uniforms, bulletproof jackets, and Bordeaux caps stop every car but especially those going to Kukes. On their arms and caps it is recognizable from far their known KLA symbol. They are tough in their movements, do not permit to anyone to photograph them, speak little with their grave aspect increased by the Kalashnikovs they keep in combat position.
"We are not authorized to respond to journalists. The General Staff has charged us to enforce the order of general mobilization from 18 to 50 years old men. Nobody must abandon", said one of the KLA guards in the check point of Kalimash.
They are all members of Military Police of KLA, which under the order No. 87 of General Staff, should operate within and outside Kosovo to oblige Kosovar youth to enroll. Tractors and other transportation means traveling along northern roads loaded with refugees transport only women and children. Only one man in charge of the family is excluded. The rest should wear the KLA uniform.
Militaries of KLA, who can be seen all over the city of Kukes, say that the use of force has not been necessary to recruit young Kosovars. "All of them want to fight for their burning land. The moral is very high and it is not true that we are not resisting in Kosovo", says "Baca" a grayed hair man with old fighter appearances.
In Kukes now a completely Kosovo city, beside those who prepare to return back there are found those who have left the West for to align in the military barracks. Those who leave from the West arrive in Albania, principally in the Port of Durres, with ferries. After staying two days there, they register and than get the bus to recruitment centers in Kukes and Tropoja. "Until now, the number of people coming from the West, mostly from Germany and Switzerland, has reached 8 thousand. Naturally, there are many requests but we can not equip all of them with weapons, materials and military training before leaving to the front", says a political representative of KLA in Tirana, who adds that in Kosovo the clandestine troops total some 30 thousand unities.
The images from the most important TV of the world, families in danger and burned houses have raised the combat spirit of Albanians of Kosovo living abroad. Only from the USA have arrived at the airport of Tirana about 400 young with mimetic uniform of KLA. "We'll die for freedom" - is the motto that has gathered some 2 thousand Albanians in the USA and wait to debark on the front against the Serb Army. But not only Albanians are embraced by war fever. Franck Brucker, a Frenchmen who is fighting since two months as volunteer with KLA, is lying heavily wounded in the Tirana hospital and risks to loose a leg after a battle with Serb forces close to the border where 4 other KLA fighters were killed. In the same hospital there is a German with KLA uniform risking the life.
After the successful attacks of KLA to some Serb cross border police offices, Serbs have hit back and even have penetrated into the Albanian territory where have occupied two villages and inflicted important loss to KLA. In Tirana the leaders of KLA are optimistic for the victory. On the roads of the capital lately there are many people with uniforms but without symbols. According to the great number of recruits euphoria reigns in Tirana. Anyway it should not be forgotten that the workers leaving the West need time to learn to handle weapons.
In an abandoned store, at the exit of Kukes, known before as the wheat deposit, there is a great movement of people with uniforms. The majority of the Kosovars recruits, coming voluntarily or forcibly mobilized, are here in this improvised barrack trained where girls also aligning to combat. Names are taken uniforms and weapons are distributed. After 15 days of training, with small group they cross the border through difficult paths mined and defended by the Serb Army. Until now they have succeeded in this. 5 thousand have joined the front. "We have a well organized army and if we get armed very well, we can confront with Serb forces. Neither Americans nor Germans nor British can push Serbs from Kosovo. This has to be done by us", says a commander of KLA.
While the refugees' caravans, flooding out Kosovo leaving behind the indescribable terror, is not stopping yet, it is impossible not to ask: Has there been any resistance against Serb forces? Why KLA is not protecting those who are obliged to flee? Is there anybody fighting out there in Kosovo? "Do not provoke with this kind of questions", says "Baca" with a strong tone. "There is a war in Kosovo and KLA is still holding free areas. Do not forget that Serbs have 40 thousand soldiers, 20 thousand police, paramilitary bands, tanks and heavy weapons." Not only the military in Kukes but also in Tirana they thing the war in alliance with NATO, will continue for another three months maximum. The responsible of recruitment say that thousands has answered to the claim of KLA (transmitted daily by the Albanian TV as a spot). But the leaders of KLA do not permit to journalists to verify these figures pretending that the entrance into the barracks and the information about, is not only a military secret but would involve the Albanian State too. It is not clear what kind of involvement they say when in Albania are going to deployed helicopters Apache and at the check point passport should be shown to military who bear on their caps the sign of Kosovo Liberation Army.