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|Part of the 1997 Albanian riots, 1997|
Map showing the route of the German helicopters
|Commanders and leaders|
|Col Henning Glawatz||Unknown|
|Casualties and losses|
1 helicopter damaged
|Unknown number of wounded
No reported deaths
|Part of the|
|Albanian Rebellion of 1997|
|Gangs of 1997|
|Massacres in 1997|
|Tragedies of 1997|
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, British  and Italian military forces evacuated their citizens from Albania. Operation Libelle is the first time since World War II that German infantry soldiers fired shots in combat.
Situation in Albania
In March 1997 riots spread across Albania after the collapse 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 then rioted in the streets. After army and police weapons depots were looted by insurgents, some 1500 people had been killed. Albania quickly became dangerous for foreign nationals residing there. On March 11 all foreigners were instructed to leave Albania; Italian and U.S. forces conducted initial evacuation operations. By midday of March 13 it was no longer possible to leave the country by conventional means as the rioters had substantively disrupted national peace and order. With nowhere to go 98 persons fled to the German embassy, which had not yet evacuated.
- On the eve of the operation, the German Minister of Defence, Volker Rühe, decided to reduce the reaction time of German Forces in case of emergency in Albania and ordered the frigate Niedersachsen (F122) to enter Albanian waters.
- 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, 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 a separate evacuation operation in Tirana after a Blackhawk helicopter was hit by small arms fire, Colonel Glawatz decided to continue the approach. The first CH-53 landed on an abandoned airfield near the outskirts of Tirana. Perimeter security was established and the civilians started to board the helicopters. Insurgents in armoured vehicles approached the area and attacked the escaping civilians. As the German units returned fire, additional 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. At least one Albanian was wounded.
- 4.09 pm - the last helicopter left Tirana.
- The helicopters returned to Podgorica with the refugees after the successful end of the operation; they were then transported to Bonn, Germany.
The German parliament gave its subsequent permission on March 19.
List of evacuated persons
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||2|
- Roberts, John (2009). Safeguarding the Nation: The Story of the Modern Royal Navy, 352pp, Seaforth Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84832 043 7
- RP Online
- ''Operation "Libelle" Tirana '97: Das erste Gefecht der Bundeswehr'' RP Online, 14 March 2007 (German)
- Laurin, Carin (2005). Baltic Yearbook of International Law, 2005. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, p. 71. ISBN 9004147888
- Details about the helicopters used (German)