Connection Between NATO and the NLA?
Skopje, Macedonia Last Summer, rumors of an unstated connection between NATO and the NLA persisted in Macedonia. Two occasions in particular drew attention. First, the Battle of Aracinovo, in which German and Macedonian sources alleged that 17 "advisors" from MPRI took part on the Albanian side; Macedonian security sources claim that three Americans were among those killed. Second, was a mysterious airdrop by a US helicopter over the NLA stronghold of Sipkovice, filmed by a Macedonian television crew. They claimed that a "container," perhaps of weapons, was being given to the Albanians, for use against the Macedonian security forces. While American diplomats and NGO's scoff at such claims, it is well known that the KLA in Kosovo was armed by NATO, and that its core element retained power with the establishment of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), a kind of Albanian gendarmerie that has aided in both the expulsion of the Serbs, and the smuggling of weapons, guns and women, the last often to service NATO troops in Kosovo. And as recently as last summer, Albanians wounded in border-crossing shoot-outs were rushed to Camp Bondsteel for treatment. New evidence also attests to some kind of connection, though it cannot be determined whether this connection is of a formal or informal nature.
A report of 15 December 2001, made available to me by the Macedonian government, describes an automobile accident near the Kosovo-Macedonia border. The accident was due to snow, excessive speed, and an overloaded vehicle. We learn:
"On the road Skopje-Blace border crossing, around 15:20 hours, six people died in a car accident. The car, an 'Opel Ascona' (plates Nr. SK-269-KK) driven by Abdulai Arif, due to the overweight of the car and the high speed, crossed to the left side of the road and crashed with a bus (plates NR KO-148-69) driven by Ibishi Sefedin, citizen of FR Yugoslavia. The following people who were in the 'Opel' died:
According to sources from the court, three of the six ethnic Albanians who died were members of the so-called NLA. The driver of the car, Abdulai Arif, was cousin of Shakiri Jezair (the so-called Commander Hodja). Emblems of the so-called NLA were found in the car, the ID of Commander Toda, and an ID pass for a person employed in the US army.
The six dead people were buried in the village of Aracinovo, in the part of the graveyard where the important people of the village are buried. MP's from the PDP were present at the funeral."
Government officials told me that the US Army pass mentioned was one that could be used for entering Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. It was unclear whether it was the pass of a particular soldier (which might indicate theft), or a general entry pass. In any case, the implications of the report occupy the same nebulous region as those involving the MPRI soldiers and the Sipkovice airdrop. These things may never be known, but there is no denying the growth of a body of circumstantial evidence to suggest some sort of collusion.
Christopher Deliso is a journalist and travel writer with special interest in current events in the areas of the former Byzantine Empire the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, and Caucasus. Mr. Deliso holds a master's degree with honors in Byzantine Studies (from Oxford University), and has traveled widely in the region. His current long-term research projects include the Macedonia issue, the Cyprus problem, and ethnography of Byzantine Georgia.
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