From Defense and Foreign Affairs Daily, with thanks to FreedomNowNews:
The major wave of violence instigated in the Kosovo region of Serbia on beginning on about March 14, 2004, and escalating dramatically through March 18, 2004, is the start of the forecast series of unrest, guerilla warfare and terrorist activity planned by radical Islamist leaders in Bosnia, Albania, Iran and in the Islamist areas of Serbia, and directly linked with the various al-Qaida-related mujahedin and terrorist cells in the area.
Attempts have already been made to blame the violence on the very small Serbian population which remains in Kosovo, but this is not credible, and nor has the Serbian Government shown any enthusiasm to get involved in the situation.
Sources confirm that the violence, which began on March 17, 2004, and continued to escalate through March 18, 2004, is not an isolated expression of frustration, but, rather, part of a planned “season” of unrest designed explicitly to pull US and Western strategic focus away from Iraq, and to ensure that US and Western peacekeeping forces — which have been progressively diverted to Iraq operations and away from Kosovo and Bosnia — will need to be held in the Balkans. The purposes are multifold:
1. To remove US and Western focus on Iraq, thereby relieving pressure on Iran’s clerical leadership and helping to ensure the retention of Iranian capability to link, via Iraq, with Syria;
2. To demonstrate the failure of the Western “war on terror” and specifically to discredit those Western leaders who supported the war in the run-up to elections in the US and Australia;
3. To create a climate of instability around the Olympic Games, scheduled for August 2004 in Athens, and which feature as a major target for unrest and terrorism;
4. To consolidate Islamist control over parts of the Balkans, specifically the so-called “green transversal”1 belt which links the Adriatic Coast through Albania, FYR of Macedonia, the Serbian Kosovo and Metohija region, the southern Serbia/northern Montenegro Raška (Sandzak) region, through the Gorazde Corridor into Bosnia, not only as a terrorist corridor but also to facilitate a clear highway for narco-trafficking and weapons shipments.
Significantly, the Serbian Government within the union of Serbia & Montenegro, had, until the recent Serbian elections, attempted to ignore the growing incitement to a new outbreak of violence and unrest on the part of the Muslim community of southern Serbia (Raška) and Kosovo because it did not wish to be seen to be drawing attention to the growing Muslim agitation. However, this action merely allowed the process to continue to build without any major intelligence or policy focus on the problem. The issue was compounded by the fact that two major international oversight bodies — the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and the German-controlled command of UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) — both sided with radical Islamists and known war-criminals also, presumably, to avoid the appearance of being anti-Muslim.
The warnings of this wave of violence were explicitly clearly and starkly forecast by GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs reports over the past year, and specifically on October 15, 2003, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, in a report entitled Strong Warning Indicators for New Surge in European Islamist Terrorism, which noted:
Intelligence sources in the Balkans and Middle East indicate that the Iranian and Osama bin Laden terrorist networks, assets and alliances built up in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Southern Serbia and elsewhere in the Balkans are preparing for significant new slate of operations. Initial operations in this “new slate” have already begun in Kosovo, and are expected to expand in southern Serbia in late October and into November 2003.
The intelligence, from a variety of primary sources within the Islamist movements, points to:
1. Escalation of Islamist terrorist attacks on Serb civilians within the predominantly Muslim region of Kosovo and Metohija in the Serbian province of Kosovo;
2. Commencement during October-November 2003 of seemingly-random bombings of public places, including schools, in Muslim-dominated cities in the southern Serbian/northern Montenegrin Raška Oblast (this oblast, or region — not a formal sub-state as in the Russian use of the word “oblast” — is referred to by Islamists by its Turkish name, Sandzak) as a prelude to wider violence in this area, and eastern Montenegro, adjacent to the Albanian border and reaching down to the Adriatic;
3. Coordination of incidents by the so-called “Albanian National Army” — a current iteration of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA, or UCK: Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves, in Albanian; OVK in Serbo-Croat) — in Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with activities in Raška, led by the Bosnian radical Islamist party, SDA (Party of Democratic Action) of Alija Izetbegovic, and all supported by Albanian Government-approved/backed training facilities inside Albania, close to the border with Serbian Kosovo;
4. Escalation of incidents — including threats, political action, terrorist action — within Bosnia-Herzegovina, designed to further polarize the Serbian and Croat population away from the Muslim population;
5. Eventual escalation of “incidents” to create a “no-go” area for Serbian, Montenegrin, Republica Srpska security forces and international peacekeepers in a swathe of contiguous territory from the Adriatic through Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Southern Serbia and Macedonia into Bosnia-Herzegovina, effectively dissecting the Republica Srpska state (which is within Bosnia-Herzegovina) at the Gorazde Corridor and isolating Montenegro;
6. Using the extensive save-haven areas and “no-go” zones created by the actions, undertake a range of terrorist actions against targets in Greece — which is contiguous with Albania and (FYR) Macedonia — during (and possibly before) the August 2004 Olympic Games. Specific intelligence points to the fact that the Islamist groups have already predetermined target opportunities during the Games.
News sources indicated on March 18, 2004, that NATO could dispatch nearly 2,000 additional troops to Kosovo, including 750 from the United Kingdom, to deal with the new unrest. As of March 18, 2004, after only a few days of unrest, it was understood that 35 NATO troops had been injured. Some 350 extra troops were already being sent in, including US and Italians from Bosnia, as well as British forces. The UK Government then announced it was sending 750 new troops into Kosovo. At least 14 people had been reported killed in Kosovo as a result of the new fighting, much of which centers around the divided town of Mitrovica; hundreds have been injured.
A crowd of Albanians, estimated at 3,000 strong, attacked the UN police station in Mitrovica before crossing the city's main bridge and heading into the Serbian side where there were exchanges of machinegun fire and hand-grenades. The Albanian groups were seen to be in possession of heavy automatic weapons and grenades. It had been claimed that the Albanians had mobilized to attack Serbs who had allegedly chased several boys into a river where three of them were drowned, ostensibly in retaliation for an earlier (and confirmed) drive-by shooting in which a Serbian youth was killed.
However, UNMIK spokesman Derek Chappell said on the night of March 18, 2004, that the survivor of the March 17, 2004, Ibar River drowning had told his parents that he and three friends entered the river alone and were immediately caught up in the heavy current. The boy managed to reach the opposite bank of the river, but his three companions were swept away. It was clear that the Albanian forces were mobilized and ready for the assault and that the story about the drownings was merely used as a convenient claim on which to base the attacks.
But what seemed clear was the the German-run UNMIK forces were totally unprepared for the outbreak, despite the warnings and knowledge of Islamist plans for such actions. As a result, UN forces were known to have withdrawn rather than protect Serb areas and Serbian Orthodox churches, which were supposedly to be protected as cultural heritage sites. The Kosovo Force (KFOR) units fared somewhat better, using rubber bullets and tear gas, but they, too, were unprepared for the scale of the operations conducted by the Albanians.
A German spokesman had, in recent months, made clear anti-Serbian remarks, highlighting the biased nature of the supposedly impartial international force supposedly administering Kosovo with the support of KFOR military units and police provided by donor nations [a Polish police unit was in charge of the area of Metrovica when the incident occurred]. UNMIK had, additionally, on several occasions, tried to overturn international warrants and criminal proceedings against one of the key Kosovo radicals, known war criminal Agim Ceku, who was now working as the Commander of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), which was, in fact, created out of the narco-terrorism organization, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK).2
The October 15, 2003, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs report also indicated that Ceku’s KPC was directly engaged in support of Albanian-trained Islamist terrorists, noting:
“During the first half of August 2003, 300 Albanian-trained guerillas — including appr. 10 mujahedin (non-Balkan Muslims) — were infiltrated across the Albanian border into Kosovo, where many have subsequently been seen in the company (and homes) of members of the so-called Kosovo Protection Corps which was created out of Kosovo Albanian elements originally part of the KLA. In fact, the Kosovo Protection Force seems almost synonymous with the Albanian National Army (ANA), the new designation for the KLA. The guerillas were trained in three camps inside the Albanian border at the towns of Bajram Curi, Tropoja and Kuks, where the camps have been in operation since 1997.”
All of the warning signs are there for an escalation of substantial proportions, both in Kosovo and in neighboring areas. On March 18, 2004, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily highlighted the confluence of Islamist terrorist activities in 2004, in a report entitled Terrorism, the Olympics and Elections: the 2004 Confluence. What that report made clear was the fact that the March 11, 2004, bombings in Madrid were a precursor for the “season” of violence, and the success of the actions there in shaping the political outcome of the Spanish general election gave strong impetus to the actions planned for the Olympics, the US and elsewhere.
The campaign to paint the Serbs as the aggressors included references, picked up by international media, that Serbia & Montenegrin forces and/or internal security forces from the Republic of Serbia were deployed to move back into Kosovo. Serbian Premier Vojislav Kostunica said on March 17, 2004, that “our military and police units are not deployed along the administrative line with Kosovo-Metohija”. Speaking at a news conference after the Serbian Government's special session held to discuss the clashes in Kosovo-Metohija, Kostunica said that news about the army and police presence at the administrative line dividing Kosovo province from the rest of Serbia were misinformation spread on purpose in order to justify a further radicalization of the situation.3
This was confirmed by intelligence sources on the ground in Kosovo; there were no Serbian military or police deployments in the area.
Similarly, reports of the sacking of a mosque in Belgrade by Serbs was also distorted, largely to cover the fact that a significant number of Serbian Orthodox churches had been destroyed by the Albanians in Kosovo: destructions which were witnessed, and not prevented, by UNMIK forces on some occasions. There was, however, an incident at the mosque in Belgrade, and a GIS source witnessed the incident on March 17, 2004, and noted: “Hooligans — and that’s what they really were: drunk kids, 17 to 22 years old — pillaged the interior of the mosque as well as the madarasa [Islamic school].” The source said that the teenagers lit a fire in front of the mosque, but did not damage it.
UN Police Director for Information in Kosovo, Derek Chappell, noted on March 17, 2004: “In the past weeks there have been a number of incidents that have escalated tension. We had a hand grenade attack on the residence of President of Kosovo last Friday, we have had four or five hand grenades thrown on the streets of Priština, we had a bomb left on the front of UN headquarters two weeks ago and a Serbian youth was shot in a drive-by shooting this last Monday evening [March 15, 2004]. These incidents have tended to create a feeling of fear and uncertainty and last night we had three Albanian youngsters who drowned in a river, allegedly as a result of being chased into the river by Serbs, and this seems to have been the catalyst that finally drove people into the streets and we saw this violence that erupted today [March 17, 2004].”
However, as noted in repeated reports by GIS since mid-2004, the escalation was planned, and — because of pressures to move US and other forces out of the area to aid Iraq deployments — NATO intelligence and planning officials downplayed the threat.
The matter was not helped when, in recent weeks, former US Clinton Administration State Dept. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke said that the break-up of the former Yugoslavia was not yet complete: it required that Montenegro and Kosovo be broken off to form separate sovereign states. A number of officials from the region told GIS that they thought that this comment must have reflected official positions in Washington. Almost certainly the statement by Holbrooke gave encouragement and incitement to the new wave of attacks in Kosovo.
Meanwhile, on the night of March 18, 2004, Serbia & Montenegro Pres. Svetozar Marovic convened a special session of the Serbia & Montenegro Supreme Defense Council, to discuss the latest escalation of clashes. The Council issued a statement that which said that it was following with great concern the escalation of organized violence in Kosovo and Metohija, and was calling on, and expecting from, UNMIK and KFOR, as well as from other international institutions, to ensure the protection of the lives of Serbs and Montenegrins and of their property in Kosovo and Metohija and to fulfill other commitments undertaken under resolution 1244. The Supreme Defence Council supported the contacts of relevant bodies of Serbia and Montenegro, the Serbian Government and the Army of Serbia and Montenegro with international institutions and expressed a readiness of the Army of Serbia and Montenegro to lend assistance to the international forces for stabilizing the situation in Kosovo and Metohija in keeping with resolution 1244, within the mandate of KFOR and UNMIK.
The Supreme Defense Council, along with the existing activities of the Army of Serbia and Montenegro, ordered the Chief of Staff to follow the situation and to suggest to the Supreme Defense Council what measures should be taken next. Apart from the chairman and members of the Council, Acting Pres. of Serbia Predrag Markovic and Montenegrin Pres. Filip Vujanovic, also took part in the meeting, along with Serbian Premier Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia & Montenegro Defense Minister Boris Tadic, Deputy Defense Minister Vukasin Maras, Chief of Staff Gen. Branko Krga and Supreme Defense Council secretary Col. Ljunisa Jokic.
Fewer than 20,000 KFOR troops remain in Kosovo, and the few Serbs who remain there still live in ghetto conditions; very few who fled during the fighting in 1999 have returned to their former homes. Serbs now represent only about 10 percent of Kosovo’s two-million population.
It would, however, be unwise to focus solely on the Kosovo incidents without seeing them in the light of regional developments and the larger picture, including operations in and related to the ongoing peacekeeping operations in Iraq. Significantly, as the Kosovo operation itself got underway, al-Qaida senior leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was reportedly being besieged by Pakistan Army forces in southern Waziristan, in the Pakistani tribal areas. Ayman al-Zawahiri, and his brother Mohammed (currently in an Egyptian prison) organized and led much of the terrorist, mujahedin and narco-trafficking arrangements in both Bosnia and Kosovo. And these arrangements remain central to al-Qaida and Iranian strategic operations to move from defensive operations against the US-led Coalition forces to strongly offensive operations in the run-up to the 2004 US elections.
1. The attempt to create a Muslim belt from the Adriatic Sea up into the heart of Europe has been known for many decades by the Islamists as the “green transversal”, the green standing for the Muslim color (although, ironically, it is also the color of the Orthodox Christians), and transversal meaning a line or path on the ascendant. The Bosnian Muslims, even during the Tito era, managed to inject the name onto sports stadium in Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Zetra Stadium specifically stands for ZElena (Green) TRAnsverszala, in Serbo-Croat.
2. See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, October 23, 2003: Slovenia Arrests Key Kosovo Islamist, Based on Serbia-Montenegro Indictment. And Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, March 5, 2004: UN Mission In Kosovo Continues Protection for KLA Leader Ceku. See also Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, February 11, 2004: Report on Albanian Criminal-Terrorist Links Providing Key Intelligence for Olympics Security, “War on Terror”.
3.. See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, November 17, 2003: New Balkans Islamist Weapons Supply Line Tied to 9/11 Players and Contact of Holbrooke. And Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily report of September 17, 2004: Bosnian Official Links With Terrorism, Including 9/11, Become Increasingly Apparent as Clinton, Clark Attempt to Justify Support of Bosnian Militants.