Exclusive. From GIS Station Priština. Three major heroin production laboratories, run by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK: Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosove), are operating within the Urosevac [Lat. 42.38°N, Long. 21.17°E] area of the Serbian province of Kosovo which is under the control of US Army units operating from Camp Bondsteel. The US authorities operating in the area have specifically protected the laboratories from inspection by other NATO forces in the area, and there is evidence that, over a period of years, US military and possibly intelligence elements have actively engaged in commercial and/or support relations with the narco-traffickers involved with the heroin laboratories.
Very well-placed GIS sources said that, essentially since the withdrawal of Serbian Government control over its Kosovo province, there has been an increasing amount of opium grown in the area, and this is a major supply source for the heroin laboratories, although it is understood that some raw opium may also be fed into the laboratories from, or via, Turkey (possibly including some raw opium from Afghanistan). Albanian “mafia” control of the heroin trade in Western Europe is now well-documented.
[In Turkey, it is not illegal to grow opium, and, as well, there is a growing production of opium in Iraqi Kurdish areas; these production areas are also believed to support the heroin laboratories in the Urosevac area.]
Very senior sources within NATO governments have confirmed that the US military command in the Urosevac area has instructed other foreign forces, serving alongside the US in the NATO peacekeeping operations, to avoid certain areas where the processing laboratories function, repeating the warnings of the KLA combatants in the area that the land is mined. The determination of the KLA to defend these facilities is now well-known locally. A Russian unit, some three or four years ago, engaged the KLA in a firefight in the area, at night, after which the KLA forces were sufficiently strong and well-armed that they surrounded the Russian camp and essentially prevented the Russian forces from leaving their camp.
Other NATO and peacekeeping forces in the immediate area and elsewhere in Kosovo were asked whether there was a chance that the US command at Camp Bondsteel was unaware of the heroin laboratories and their related activities. All confirmed the view expressed by one official: “There is not a chance that the senior US military in the area do not know about the [heroin production] facilities.” However, there was also anecdotal evidence that military personnel from other countries deployed in the area were also actively engaged in narcotics trafficking with the KLA.
The KLA’s use of Kosovo as a criminal clearing-house extends to a wide range of other activities. Stolen cars from all around Europe, but particularly from Italy, are “re-processed” in Kosovo, and given new papers, before being re-exported to places such as Albania. One such car was used for some time by the Albanian Interior Minister, until a few years ago, before, on a visit to Greece, it was identified because of an Interpol alert, and seized. As well, electrical goods and household fittings removed from the homes of Kosovo Serbs, who have been driven from the area, are on sale through a major network of retail outlets in Albania.
Little of this gains international attention, although the use of roadblocks by the KLA reached such a level that the United Nations and NATO leaderships in Kosovo have issued warnings to their personnel. See Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, October 20, 2005: KFOR Claims “Criminals” Active in Western Kosovo; Linked to KLA and Narco-Trafficking.]
However, US involvement with the narco-trafficking has gone beyond merely turning a blind eye to the activities of the KLA in the area. US military vehicles, several years ago, were known to have actually transported narcotics from Kosovo, through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and into the Florin area of northern Greece, and then on through the Greek Western port of Igoumenitsa (capital of the region of Thessprotia, lying just across the island of Corfu) the closest port to Italy with direct connections to Brindesi, Bari and Ancona. On at least one occasion (before 2001), the trucks carrying the narcotics were said to be carrying the bodies of dead US servicemen, and, as a result, Greek newspapers carried reports claiming that 14 US troops had been killed in Kosovo.
Significantly, as the question of the “final status” of Kosovo moves to center-stage, the US has begun moving some of its intelligence capabilities from Bosnia and into Kosovo over recent months. Many of the Bosnian Croat sources being run by the US Central Intelligence Agency or other US agencies now appear to be being handled by British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI-6) control.