After the murder of Ylli, the sniper attacks on Hamdi

atmir Haklaj, his uncle and Feriz Kerrnaja
Fatmir Haklaj, his uncle and Feriz Kerrnaja

The investigative show "Jungle" that is broadcast every Monday NEWS 24 solifacts and testimonies that shed light on the tragic events that are included in the "Tropoja File". "Gazeta Shqiptare" publishes today the 13th part of the "DropjesTropoja". What happened to the Haklaj family after the murder of their fourth son, Ylli, on December 3, 2000?

Why did Hamdi Haklaj have to survive to save the orphaned children of the slain brothers? "GSH" brought other details regarding the events that followed in Tropoja during the year 2001.
The murder of the fourth son, Ylli, had opened a big hole for the Haklaj family. The only survivor, older brother Hamdiu, 53, now had to be more careful, because his elimination threatened the extinction of the whole family. The 74-year-old Muharrem Haklaj had to do the daily chores to provide food and other necessities for the family. Hamdi could no longer be publicly exposed to any situation. Described as the brains of the Haklaj, he was now the next target for opponents. Hamdi Haklaj was also the most informed witness who knew in detail everything that had happened. He knew the behind-the-scenes and deals that his assassinated brothers had made with the country’s top politicians at certain times. Hamdi knew the executors who were trying to exterminate the last sucker of the family. He had to stay alive not only to keep together the survivors, friends and people who had served the Haklaj for years, his main task was to ensure the life and upbringing of the family's orphaned children, so that the Haklaj surname would not disappeared from the face of the earth. Ylli's sniper execution forced the two daughters of the family, Aisha, the principal of the high school in Bujan, and Zylfien, the physics teacher at the 8-year-old school in Kërnaja, to take on greater responsibilities. Zylfia stayed daily with the parents and children of the brothers killed in the tower, being strongly psychologically affected by this so tragic situation. The physics teacher had taken an oath at the funeral of her fourth brother, Ylli, and the events that followed proved that she was living only to keep this promise.
The failed attack on Bajram Curri's commissariat brought back the fear, horror and insecurity of the residents of Tropoja, who started to leave their homeland an hour ago, to save their families. The ray of hope that Commissioner Gani Malushi had brought to them in the autumn of 1999 had already faded. The local branch of the Democratic Party in Tropoja was not in a more comfortable position. Its leader, Azgan Haklaj, after renewing hope among Democrats, was targeted by state law enforcement structures. He was accused and blamed as the main organizer and direct leader, not only of the September 26 anti-rally, when the aim was to sabotage the visit of Prime Minister Meta, but also of the events of November 28, when the police in Bajram Curri were attacked. The guarantee given to the DP leaders in Tirana that no one would dare to touch it with his hand, turned out to be insufficient.
In the early morning hours of January 21, 2001, a secret closed-door hearing took place in the Tirana court. The prosecution requested that the court issue an arrest warrant for Tropoja DP chairman Azgan Haklaj. He was accused of organizing and participating in cooperation in the attack on state institutions as well as destroying and causing great damage to public property. The court approved the prosecution's request. This decision was urgently handed over to the State Police, which sent anti-terrorist agents and RENEA special troops to Tropoja. In order not to have information leaked, the Tropoja police station was not informed at all. At midnight on January 21, 2001, special forces arrived in Bajram Curri and without wasting time headed to Haklaj's apartment. The arrest of the Tropoja DP leader was more of a kidnapping than an execution of a court decision. He was treated as if he were a person with high social risk who posed a serious threat to police forces, and not as an ordinary citizen. Special troops entered Haklaj's apartment, breaking down the door, and then used force during the arrest and immediate escort of the Tropoja DP leader to the capital. The convoy of special forces traveled overnight on the difficult road to Qafë Malit and in the early hours of the morning the package was delivered to Prison 313.
The opposition rose to its feet protesting fiercely against the way Haklaj was arrested, calling it a bandit act that was accompanied by the torture of detainees. Opposition supporters staged nationwide protests against the police crackdown. Observers from the OSCE, the Helsinki Committee, the Red Cross, the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and the US State Department described the police action as "extremely violent", with serious violations of the law and that during detention the detainee was tortured. Despite international protests and the media, Haklaj spent six months in prison awaiting trial. The charges against him were never substantiated after he was released from the courtroom by a decision of the Supreme Court on July 21, 2001. Haklaj was an unprecedented case, he ran for MP in area number 9, Tropoja district while being imprisoned and won convincingly over the socialist rival. Haklaj was arrested by special forces on charges of terrorism and released as a member of the Albanian Parliament.
With the arrival of spring, the opponents of the Haklaj launched another attack on the fortified tower, again aiming to eliminate Hamdi. The commando who undertook this attack is suspected to have been the same as the one who managed to execute Ylli Haklaj with a sniper. Hamdi and his men were found on alert and opened fire from the tower sites before falling victim to commando snipers, forcing them to retreat without reaching the target. The exchange of fire was fierce on both sides and lasted for about 30 minutes. Despite the panic it created in the surrounding area, the inhabitants of Kërnaja were already accustomed to such events. As for the police, it was a kind of fighting in Kandahar, and ours in Tropoja, as if the northernmost district of the country was not a territorial part of the Republic of Albania. Hamdi Haklaj to prevent sniper shots from a distance undertook another mass defense. He put people to cut down the forest on the hill above the tower, brought in binocular surveillance guards at the dominant points of the village, and at the same time installed a new defense system, placing maze-shaped wooden planks inside the tower's fortified enclosure. To the fence with stone and concrete walls over four meters high, was added a barbed wire fence one and a half meters above it. While inside the outer wall everything was covered with a whole system of wooden planks, unprecedented until then in Albania. This way the people who were inside the perimeter of the tower could move freely to perform various tasks without being afraid that they might be hit by professional snipers.
To completely paralyze Hamdi Haklaj, the opponents decided to hit his close people, who posed a danger to them. One of the most prominent was Petrit Braha, from Kërnaja, a former special forces officer. Braha was seen as a serious threat and capable of striking a blow in Haklaj's interest. To neutralize this danger, an ambush was organized against him. On the morning of August 20, 2001, Petrit Braha, his brother Kastriot Braha, and the Haklaj grandson, Bilbil Selivrada, were descending from Kërnaja towards Bajram Curri in a cherry-colored Mitsubishi SUV. Without landing in the village of Sopot, they were fired upon with light machine guns and Kalashnikovs by people wearing military uniforms with patches, who were positioned behind a bunker. The fire was uninterrupted but Braha's quick maneuver caused him to die. Petrit Braha and Bilbil Selivrada were seriously injured as a result of the injuries received. Braha has been paralyzed since time immemorial and has left the country. The perpetrators of this ambush have not been revealed by the Albanian justice, but it is suspected that they are the same ones who organized the attacks on the Haklaj tower.

(Continues tomorrow)


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