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Monday, April 12, 1999 Published at 21:37 GMT 22:37 UK

KLA launches recruitment push

Call to arms: KLA says thousands are responding

Images of ethnic Albanians fleeing their homes are prompting young men and women from across Europe and America to sign up for service with the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The BBC's Liz Mackean: "The KLA wants weapons"
Few of the recruits have any military experience but hundreds have volunteered to join the KLA's fight against Serb forces.

Supporters of the KLA say they want more than Nato bombs - they want weapons in the fight against the Serbs.

[ image: Enlisted: One US volunteer leaves his family]
Enlisted: One US volunteer leaves his family
But there is a ban on supplying arms to Yugoslavia so instead the KLA is relying on manpower.

A small office in North London has become a recruiting base for Kosovan Albanians.

The doctor who runs it claims 1,100 men and women have joined up since the start of the air bombardment, determined to free their homeland.

KLA spokesman, Dr Pleurat Sejdiu said: "All Albanians who are living abroad are ready to go there, to die there, for freedom."

[ image: KLA volunteer Agim Slemanaj: Wants to protect refugees]
KLA volunteer Agim Slemanaj: Wants to protect refugees
In America, Albanians are enlisiting in their hundreds.

At a recent rally in New York, recruits were sworn in and said a last farewell to their families before travelling to Europe.

More than 200,000 Albanians live in the city and it has been a major focus for fundraising to buy weapons.

KLA volunteer Agim Slemanaj said: "We saw on TV what was going on over there, the killing of kids and women. I am going to protect them."

But very few of the new soldiers have any training and the KLA is likely to use them to help protect refugees.

Pressgang reports

The Kosovo Liberation Army - also known by its Albanian initials UCK - was founded at a secret meeting, which took place in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, in early 1993.

There have been some reports that some KLA guerillas are forcing refugees to join the fight against Serb-led forces.

A Reuters news agency correspondent who spent two days with the KLA guerrillas said their leaders estimated that up to 1,000 volunteers were joining them every day.

But he said one KLA officer admitted they were also using force to recruit men of fighting age.

Refugees said they were being stopped at roadblocks and the men were being ordered to join the KLA.

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