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Operation Dragonfly
Part of the 1997 Albanian riots, 1997
OperationLibelle map
Map showing the route of the German helicopters
Date March 13–14, 1997
Location Tirana, Albania
Result German Success
Germany Germany Albania Albanian Insurgents
Commanders and leaders
Germany Col Henning Glawatz Albania Unknown
> 100 Unknown
Casualties and losses
No casualties
1 helicopter damaged
Unknown number of casualties, no reported deaths

Operation Dragonfly, in German Operation Libelle, was an evacuation operation of the German Armed Forces in the Albanian capital Tirana on March 14, 1997. In the same week, American and Italian military forces evacuated their citizens from Albania. Operation Libelle is known in Germany as the first time since World War II that German infantry soldiers fired shots in actual combat.[1]

Situation in AlbaniaEdit

In March 1997 riots spread all over Albania after the breakdown of the financial system which drove the country into a serious economical and social crisis. This crisis culminated in a massive civil disorder known as the Lottery Uprising. Thousands of people had lost their entire savings after all pyramids of the usurers had collapsed. The people took their rage against the state to the streets. After army and police weapons depots were looted by the insurgents, the danger for foreign citizens in Albania increased enormously. During the uprising, some 1500 people had been killed. On March 11 all foreigners were told to leave Albania, and Italian and American forces carried out first evacuation operations. By midday of March 13, it was no longer possible to leave the country by conventional means since the rioters had broken down national peace and order. With nowhere to go, 98 persons fled into the German embassy, which had not been evacuated yet.


March 13

March 14

  • Five CH-53G heavy transport helicopters with 89 soldiers from the German SFOR - contingent headed from Bosnia to Dubrovnik, Croatia. At the same time in Germany, three C-160 transport planes had been held in readiness to fly to the Balkans. The Niedersachsen waited in readiness in the port of Durrës, Albania.
  • 11.30 am - The German Government under Chancellor Helmut Kohl decided to deploy German Forces to evacuate the embassy. Because the German military cannot operate abroad without a permission of the German Parliament, the Government employed emergency rules and only informed the leaders of the parliament and the Defence Committee about the planned operation. The C-160s flew to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. The task force, consisting of CH-53s and soldiers from combat-, supporting- and medical units, lifted off to Tirana.
  • 3.39 pm - Although American Forces had cancelled another evacuation operation in Tirana after a Blackhawk helicopter was hit by small arms fire, Colonel Glawatz decided to continue the approach. The first helicopter landed on an abandoned airfield near the outskirts of Tirana. Perimeter security was built up and the civilians started to board the helicopters. A gunfight broke out when insurgents in armoured vehicles attacked the escaping civilians. More gunmen opened fire from the edge of the air strip. At least 188 rounds were fired at the evacuation force, and one CH-53 helicopter was hit and lightly damaged.[2] The Germans returned fire and tried to keep the attackers at bay. At least one Albanian was wounded.[3]
  • 4.09 pm - the last helicopter left Tirana.
  • The refugees were taken to Podgorica after the successful end of the operation, from where they were transported to Bonn, Germany.

The German parliament gave its subsequent permission on March 19.

List of evacuated personsEdit

Country Number
Germany Germany 21
Hungary Hungary 14
Japan Japan 13
Austria Austria 11
Czech Republic Czech Republic 5
Denmark Denmark 3
Peru Peru 3
Switzerland Switzerland 3
Egypt Egypt 2
Albania Albania 2
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 2
Netherlands Netherlands 2
Poland Poland 2
Others 8

See alsoEdit


  1. RP Online
  2. ''Operation "Libelle" Tirana '97: Das erste Gefecht der Bundeswehr'' RP Online, 14 March 2007 (German)
  3. Laurin, Carin (2005). Baltic Yearbook of International Law, 2005. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, p. 71. ISBN 9004147888

External linksEdit

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