War In The Balkans: KLA's ragged army imposes draft

The Resistance

A CURIOUS guard of honour - 10 soldiers in red berets and mis- matching uniforms - stood around the gate of the electricity sub-station in Kukes, amid flat ground packed with hundreds of tractors and thousands of refugees.

The soldiers were not there to protect the Kosovo Albanians fleeing the Serbian army's savage assault; they were seeking new blood for the fight that goes on.

Along the border road, and in the main street of Kukes, and south of Kukes on the main road to the Albanian capital, Tirana, uniformed soldiers of the Kosovo Liberation Army set up roadblocks and started searching for young men fleeing the Serbs.

"I want to go with my family - if they let me go," said 23-year-old Binak Likaj, who was leaning against the plastic sheet covering a tractor- trailer parked in a roadside camp. "The KLA is recruiting soldiers for the army to go back to fight."

He looked nervous, as 10 guerrillas were standing around at the gate to the camp. "I want to go with my family," he repeated.

Fatmir Krasniqi, 21, was forcibly recruited to the struggle by the KLA at the Kosovo-Albania border crossing at Morini, where he was waiting for news of his older brother, Flamur. Hours before, their mother, Mihirie, had died in Kukes hospital. Mihirje's heart problem had proved too much for the terrifying 21-hour walk out from Kosovo.

"They took Fatmir last night, but I went and showed them the death certificate for my wife, so they released him for one or two days," said his father, Muharrem Krasniqi.

He had managed to shepherd four of his children - Fatmir, Azem, 19, and daughters Mihirie and Shote - out of Kosovo, all the time carrying his wife on a stretcher the 11 miles from their home city of Prizren.

Muharrem had ordered his eldest son, Flamur, to split off from the main group with his pregnant wife and child, so that if the Serbs attacked them some of the family at least might survive.

But Muharrem has no intention of fleeing any further. "If I can get the girls settled somewhere, I want to go and fight with my sons," he said firmly.

Many other Kosovar refugees said they shared his feeling. They wanted to return to battle, but first were determined to ensure that their women and children were safe.

"I want to go and fight back, but only after I settle my family somewhere," said Asllan Kreyziu, leaning against his cousin's new Golf, parked amid a sea of tractors in a temporary camp. "Otherwise I will not know where they are. It is not suicide to go and fight for Kosovo's independence."

Mr Kreyziu, who is married and has three children, added: "We left a lot of property behind. My uncle has worked for 20 years in Germany and everything we own is there.

"We are not immigrants, that is where we belong, and we are not giving up that easily."

Other relatives - there are about 300 Kreyziu family members from the village of Rugova, in southern Kosovo - were not so keen. Two young men squatting on a small patch of grass surrounded by tractor-trailers loaded with children told of their dilemma.

The villagers wanted to leave last Thursday, before the Serbs attacked. "But the local [Albanian] authorities told us not to flee, to stay in our houses," said Tefik Kreyziu, 21. "On Friday we were shelled and all the houses were set on fire. Some people were trapped inside their houses and killed.

"If I am asked to go and fight, I will, but everything is burning there ... we will get killed."

His mother chipped in: "We want him to come with us, he has to look after us. If he goes back, who will do that?"

But her son's chances of escaping the draft look slim. Ten KLA soldiers were manning the main gate of the makeshift camp, set up overnight on flat ground around the walled electricity station.

The rebels were stopping each trailer, van and car that was leaving, peering through the windows and under plastic awnings in search of men of military age.

Along the narrow, rutted mountain road south from the Morini border crossing, guerrillas have set up recruiting checkpoints.

Most of the buses fanning out towards towns all over Albania were full of women and children. But here and there a few mini-vans and trucks could be seen setting off full of young men.

Presumably they were heading along the mountain road to a village alleged to be the site of a KLA training camp.

"If they ever want to go back to their homes, they have to fight," said Eduard Myslia, an Albanian from Kukes, where thousands of the refugees are still milling about. If they don't go to fight for Kosovo, who will?"

The Kosovo rebels are wary of admitting their activities in Albania. They fear the recruitment drive may make the country a target for the Yugoslav army.

But if President Slobodan Milosevic continues to defy Nato's demands, the KLA may find itself supplied with Western military equipment and training in the near future.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick