The first is entitled Sex, drugs and guns in the Balkans: Ethnic Albanian rebels benefit from sex slavery by David Binder and Preston Mendenhall, and can also be found here.
TIRANA, Albania - Organized crime syndicates in the Balkans, spawned when communism collapsed a decade ago, are thriving on illegal trade in drugs and sex slaves. The final destination for much of the goods and services is Western Europe. The trade, which yields billions of dollars each year, doesn't just pay for the mansions and yachts of wealthy traffickers. It also has a political purpose — supporting the purchase of arms for Albanian rebels.
Nearly two years after NATO troops drove Serb forces from this region, rebels are believed to still be skimming profits from drug and sex slave trafficking to fund illegal arms purchases for ethnic Albanian rebel movements.
This trafficking has allowed both the Kosovo Liberation Army in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and the National Liberation Army in Macedonia to be outfitted with the latest in rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, mortars, sniper rifles and night-vision goggles.
It is a recurring them on Stop Islamic Conquest: the ties between organized crime and terrorism. Terrorists need money to operate; most of their activities are illegal, and so are many of their sources of funding.
Terrorists are criminals, and naive Westerners need to stop glamorizing them. These people are not pacifist protesters staging sit-ins; they are murderers, narcotrafficking bandits for whom a "political agenda" (or a religious one) is an excuse to do whatever they please. Theirs is a "the-ends-justify-the-means" mentality as they kill, rape, oppress and terrorize the civilized people around them.
A look at European police blotters provides evidence of the close links between the rebels and Balkans trafficking. Two recent examples:
In 1999, a court in Brindisi, Italy, convicted an Albanian drug trafficker who also admitted obtaining weapons for the Kosovo Liberation Army.
In the first week of March, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported a reversal of the main heroin trafficking route across Albania — into neighboring Kosovo rather than from Kosovo. Later, two Albanians were caught in Kukes with 20 kilos of heroin bound for Kosovo, and then on to Serbia and northern Europe.
Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the Macedonian rebel group, conceded in an interview with MSNBC.com that some of the rebels' funding might come from narcotics trafficking and a flourishing sex slave trade in the region.
But Ahmeti, whom the Macedonian government has arrested on drug charges in the past, maintained that the volume of donations to the rebel movement made it impossible to check their source.
"We try to vet all the money," Ahmeti said in an interview high in his mountain headquarters in Sipkovica in northwestern Macedonia.
But even Ahmeti admitted he counts rich Balkans smugglers among his supporters. "We're not so fanatic to say that such money could not reach us," Ahmeti told mSNBC.com.
Assuming Ahmeti is honest and sincere in these quoted comments, he becomes guilty through negligence, overlooking connections to organized crime due to perceived necessity; and that would place him on a par with some of the better classes of politicians in the United States!
Notice the ties between a convicted drug trafficker and the Kosovo Liberation Army as far back as 1999.
In fact, in 1999 Senate Republicans were already expressing concerns about US policy to support the KLA exactly because of KLA ties to Islamic fundamentalist terrorists and organized crime. From The Kosovo Liberation Army: Does Clinton Policy Support Group with Terror, Drug Ties? (large, bold type was a heading; see the original):
Charges of Drugs, Islamic Terror -- and a Note on Sources
No observer doubts that the large majority of fighters that have flocked to the KLA during the past year or so (since it began large-scale military operations) are ordinary Kosovo Albanians who desire what they see as the liberation of their homeland from foreign rule. But that fact -- which amounts to a claim of innocence by association -- does not fully explain the KLA's uncertain origins, political program, sources of funding, or political alliances.
Among the most troubling aspects of the Clinton Administration's effective alliance with the KLA are numerous reports from reputable unofficial sources -- including the highly respected Jane's publications -- that the KLA is closely involved with:
- The extensive Albanian crime network that extends throughout Europe and into North America, including allegations that a major portion of the KLA finances are derived from that network, mainly proceeds from drug trafficking; and
- Terrorist organizations motivated by the ideology of radical Islam, including assets of Iran and of the notorious Osama bin-Ladin -- who has vowed a global terrorist war against Americans and American interests.
Recall that this statement was made roughly two years before 9/11.
Even then, the ties between Osama bin Laden and organized crime were on the radar scope. Why then, given this information, were our intelligence and security services, especially the FBI, not specifically directed to go after bin Laden via his connections to narcotics trafficking?
By the summer of 2001, information from those connections and available to the FBI was already warning of a plot to strike at US cities using hijacked airliners, but only after the attack did this begin to come out. And, even now, Sibel Edmonds, who has been instrumental in helping call attention to the known connections and the intelligence data derived from monitoring them, is being legally gagged by the Bush Administration so she can't divulge what she learned about all this from FBI wiretaps; or, more accurately, she is being illegally gagged using legal processes.
Continuing with the 1999 Senate Republican Policy Statement:
Reports on KLA Drug and Criminal Links
Elements informally known as the "Albanian mafia," composed largely of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, have for several years been a feature of the criminal underworld in a number of cities in Europe and North America; they have been particularly prominent in the trade in illegal narcotics. [See, for example,"The Albanian Cartel: Filling the Crime Void," Jane's Intelligence Review, November 1995.] The cities where the Albanian cartels are located are also fertile ground for fundraising for support of the Albanian cause in Kosovo. [See, for example, "Albanians in Exile Send Millions of Dollars to Support the KLA," BBC, 3/12/99.]
The reported link between drug activities and arms purchases for anti-Serb Albanian forces in Kosovo predates the formation of the KLA, and indeed, may be seen as a key resource that allowed the KLA to establish itself as a force in the first place:
"Narcotics smuggling has become a prime source of financing for civil wars already under way -- or rapidly brewing -- in southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, according to a report issued here this week. The report, by the Paris-based Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues, or Geopolitical Observatory of Drugs, identifies belligerents in the former Yugoslav republics and Turkey as key players in the region's accelerating drugs-for-arms traffic. Albanian nationalists in ethnically tense Macedonia and the Serbian province of Kosovo have built a vast heroin network, leading from the opium fields of Pakistan to black-market arms dealers in Switzerland, which transports up to $2 billion worth of the drug annually into the heart of Europe, the report says. More than 500 Kosovo or Macedonian Albanians are in prison in Switzerland for drug- or arms-trafficking offenses, and more than 1,000 others are under indictment. The arms are reportedly stockpiled in Kosovo for eventual use against the Serbian government in Belgrade, which imposed a violent crackdown on Albanian autonomy advocates in the province five years ago." ["Separatists Supporting Themselves with Traffic in Narcotics," San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10/94]
Notice the connection between Turkish organized crime and the Islamic terrorists, a connection that showed up in the information that Sibel Edmonds saw at the FBI.
Notice, too, that this problem related not only to Kosovo, but also to Macedonia, scene of our MSNBC.com series.
The 1999 Republican Policy Committee's statement continues:
At the same time, many Albanians in the diaspora have made voluntary contributions to the KLA and are offended at suggestions of drug money funding of that organization:
The United States Senate Republican Policy Committee's statement then gave some examples of funding from benign contributions, before listing numerous reports of ties to naroctraffickers, terrorists and others, including Bin Laden & Al Qaeda and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; here are two statements that stand out (boldface in original):
"...In spring, a number of Albanian drugs traffickers actually went as far as to take part in the organization of a rally in favor of independence for Kosovo. . . . Drugs, arms, and the Koran: Could this be the murderous crime mix of the next few years?" ["Albanian Mafia, This Is How It Helps The Kosovo Guerrilla Fighters," Corriere della Sera (Milan, Italy), 10/15/98]
"...'If the West wants to nip the KLA in the bud, all it has to do is crack down on its financial nerve center in Switzerland,' one source said. Part of the funding, this source believes, comes from the powerful Albanian mafia organizations that deal in narcotics, prostitution and arms smuggling across Europe. The KLA has admitted having training bases in northern Albania, which the Albanian government does not condone but is powerless to stop." ["Speculation Plentiful, Facts Few About Kosovo Separatist Group," Baltimore Sun, 3/6/98]
As far back as 1998, drug traffickers were calling for independence of Kosovo from Serbia.
And, even in 1998, the ties to prostitution were noted, although it may not have been widely realized at the time that the prostitutes were in many cases trafficked sex slaves, women who had been kidnapped or deceived, dragged off to foreign lands, and there brutalized and raped and forced to work as prostitutes against their will.
Despite these concerns raised by Republicans in the Senate, the Clinton Administration was at the time in the process of bombing Serbia into submission on the issue of compromising with the KLA. Ultimately, Western policy led to the questions of whether we bombed The Wrong Side.
Returning now to Sex, drugs and guns in the Balkans: Ethnic Albanian rebels benefit from sex slavery:
GUNS FOR SEX
As hard as it is to link sex slavery with illegal arms purchases, it's arguable that the region's sex slave trade has made crime syndicates rich. Of the nearly 1 million women trafficked as sex slaves worldwide each year, an estimated 200,000 pass through the Balkans, making their transfer through the war-torn region one of the area's most lucrative businesses. Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia are filled with tiny brothels, where women, mostly from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, are forced to work as prostitutes under threat of death.
Ilir Gjoni, a former Albanian interior minister, and numerous other officials in the region said they are certain that Albanians who traffic in women and drugs contribute money to rebel arms purchases. But they admit there is no legal way of proving it.
So there you have it.
The terrorists in Kosovo, the Kosovo Liberation Army, who are ethnic Albanians, and who are Muslims with increasingly radicalized, fundamentalist ideology, are connected to the trafficking of narcotics, illegal weapons and sex slaves -- and have been for over a decade.
And, the whole time, it has been the overt or de facto policy of two US administrations, that of King George and that of his predecessor, to seek independence for the KLA and the KLA's successors.
In the second half of this article, we will consider how this situation developed, and possible reasons why, as we continue reviewing the last two articles of the series by MSNBC.com.