Documentary: The Brooklyn Connection
A Quirijns / Amago / VPRO / ‘T Hart / Sullivan Production

When we speak of war, many of us think of bombing campaigns or armies marching on countries. But these wars - states fighting other states - are in fact a minority. The overwhelming majority of conflicts taking place across the globe are guerrilla wars. Today, across Latin America, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, more than a dozen conflicts are being waged by small groups who have risen up to fight against their rulers. How are these guerrilla armies formed? Where do they get their money? And how do they get their weapons?

The Brooklyn Connection tells one man’s story of building a guerrilla army. Florin Krasniqi, a 40-year-old immigrant from Kosovo, helped launch the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s. He did it by raising money and buying high-powered sniper rifles - weapons that are legally purchased - in the United States. You might think that the laws passed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks might have rendered it impossible for Krasniqi to do today what he did then. But if Krasniqi were to shop for a guerrilla army today, not only would he remain as unhindered as he was then, he would have access to an even wider variety of weapons because Congress let a 10-year ban on assault rifles expire in September.

Born and raised in Kosovo, Krasniqi now lives with his family in Brooklyn, where he owns a roofing company. At first sight, he appears to be yet another successful American immigrant story. But Krasniqi lives a double life. Apart from running his business, he is one of the driving forces behind Kosovo’s fight for independence. He raised some $30 million during the Kosovo war (1997-99) to help build the KLA, purchasing hundreds of powerful sniper rifles across the country. He transported the weapons to Albania legally, sometimes by boat, sometimes by plane. From there, Krasniqi and his gang smuggled the weapons on donkeys or horses to Kosovo.

Although the war ended in 1999, Krasniqi says there is still unfinished business to take care of in Kosovo. Kosovo’s status was left unresolved when the United Nations arrived in Kosovo in 1999 to govern the province. The current situation remains unacceptable both to Serbs and Albanians. Although the Serbs want to maintain power over the province, Albanians outnumber them by 9 to 1 and want to see Kosovo independent. Krasniqi says he won’t stop gunrunning. “If we don’t get independence, there will be another war. Probably in a year or so. We were capable of luring NATO into our war, so I think we’ll be capable of pushing the UN out if we need to,” he says.

At the same Florin and his compatriots are preparing for war, they are also actively lobbying powerful American politicians. Both Wesley Clark and Richard Holbrooke recently attended one of their fundraising events.

In The Brooklyn Connection, Krasniqi gives a lesson on how to use the United States as a launching pad to wage war abroad, how high-powered sniper rifles and the assault rifles available on the open market in the United States often fuel guerrilla armies, terrorist organizations and organized crime beyond America’s borders. When it was broadcast in the Netherlands in September 2004 twice, one of the leading Dutch dailies, The Volksrant, called it “A compelling documentary...The ease with which he is able to buy the guns is terrifying. The crew had tremendous access to film everything and showed how Krasniqi operates.”