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Wednesday, March 4, 1998 Published at 20:25 GMT

Special Report

Kosovo Liberation Army emerges from the shadows
image: [ Ethnic Albanian emigres hold a protest in Germany ]
Ethnic Albanian emigres hold a protest in Germany

By South East European reporter, Ana Karakusevic.

There is still little reliable information about the size and the structure of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The clandestine group first emerged in 1996, when it claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks in Kosovo.

In the past year, the KLA is believed to have killed dozens of Kosovo Serbs and Albanians whom it accuses of collaborating with the Serbian authorities.

Members of the KLA were rarely seen in public until late last year, when three heavily-armed and masked men appeared at a funeral of a Kosovo Albanian shot by Serbian police.

The KLA says it has captured a large amount of military equipment, including a helicopter, during clashes with Serbian police and army units.

Until recently, the main support - both political and financial - for the KLA came from Kosovo Albanian emigres in Western Europe and the US.

However, as the long-standing tensions in Kosovo increasingly erupted into open clashes, the support for the KLA among Kosovo Albanians started to grow. Many of them have become impatient with the failure of the peaceful resistance advocated by their political leadership.

Problems for the political leadership

If the emergence - and apparent military success - of the KLA presented Kosovo Albanians with a stark choice, it could also be said to force the hand of their political leadership.

[ image: Support for violent tactics could grow]
Support for violent tactics could grow
The leader of the Kosovo Albanians, Ibrahim Rugova, has condemned the actions of the KLA, but stopped short of denouncing them as a terrorist organisation, as urged by the US.

The main question, though, is whether the actions of the KLA will bring about a change in the position of the ethnic Albanian political leadership in Kosovo.

Until now, Mr Rugova and his followers have advocated dialogue with the Serbian authorities, under international supervision. This seems to be the preferred option of the main international players as well, but has so far been rejected by Belgrade.

If the Serbian authorities continue to regard Kosovo as an internal - rather than an international - problem, the Kosovo Albanian leadership may have little choice but to abandon its peaceful option.


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