© 2002 Friends of Bosnia  

Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)
Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves (UÇK)
Frustrated by the failure of peaceful resistance to Serb repression, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was formed in 1998 and began clashing with Serb police. Thousands of young men and women, led by Hashim Thaci, took up arms to liberate Kosovo. But the Yugoslav army forces began a brutal counterinsurgency campaign, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties. The KLA also committed atrocities during the war and is now being investigated for war crimes. More recently, they have been blamed for violence against Serb and Roma minorities.

“It is a normal reaction to protect ourselves. War criminals have not been captured. My brother has been mutilated, and my father, brother and I were wounded. Eleven of my relatives were killed. When I see a criminal walking free, the only thing on my mind is revenge. It is something you just can’t resist,” said Afet Bilalli, a former KLA Commander.

“Some people say that the KLA did some bad things. Those I met, I assure you, did only good things. KLA fights against the dictatorship of Milosevic,” said Dr. Besim Hoxha, a surgeon who worked in a mobile combat KLA field hospital. Working in a cave without electricity or anesthesia, Dr. Hoxha performed surgeries with only a fork and knife. For 43 days he worked under siege by Serb forces.

“I have forgiveness for those who seek mercy. Maybe it will be enough. We will accept their apology. If that doesn’t happen, we will not forgive Serbs. They killed children and they never said they were sorry for that,” said Hoxha.

“There were Albanians that served in Serb paramilitaries—they committed crimes. They are from our neighborhood. I know their names. A criminal is a criminal and needs to be punished,” said Bilalli.

Under the peace agreement, the KLA agreed to demilitarize and transform into the Kosovo Protection Corps, an emergency rescue brigade. Thaci now heads a powerful political party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, currently in charge of many municipal institutions and a strong contender in municipal elections scheduled for October 2000.




Above: Former KLA Commander, Afet Bilalli, in Racak. He is currently chief of the Kosovo Protection Corps in Ferizaj.
1) Dr. Besim Hoxha, surgeon in KLA field hospital, now at Pristina Hospital
2) KLA insignias on sale in kiosks
3) Typical stone memorial to honor fallen KLA fighters.