Kosovo War

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Kosovo War
Part of the Yugoslav Wars[2]
Kosovo War header.jpg
Clockwise from top-left: Yugoslav general staff headquarters damaged by NATO air strikes; a Yugo buried under rubble caused by NATO air strikes; memorial to local KLA commanders; a USAF F-15E taking off from Aviano Air Base
DateFebruary 1998 – 11 June 1999
Kosovo (then part of FR Yugoslavia)

Kumanovo Treaty

No legal changes to Yugoslav borders according to the Resolution 1244, but effective political and economic separation of Kosovo from FR Yugoslavia under United Nations administration

Kosovo Liberation Army KLA

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia FR Yugoslavia
Commanders and leaders

Kosovo Liberation Army Adem Jashari 
Kosovo Liberation Army Hashim Thaçi
Kosovo Liberation Army Bilall Syla
Kosovo Liberation Army Hamëz Jashari 
Kosovo Liberation Army Sylejman Selimi
Kosovo Liberation Army Ramush Haradinaj
Kosovo Liberation Army Agim Çeku

NATO Wesley Clark

Albania Kudusi Lama [11]

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milošević
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Dragoljub Ojdanić
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Nebojša Pavković
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Vlastimir Đorđević[12]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Vladimir Lazarević[13]

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Sreten Lukić

Kosovo Liberation Army 17,000 – 20,000 KLA insurgents[14]

NATO cca. 80 aircraft
(Operation Eagle Eye)[15]
NATO 1,031 aircraft
(Operation Allied Force)[16]
NATO 30+ warships and submarines[17]

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 85,000 soldiers[18] (including 40,000 in and around Kosovo)[17]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 20,000 policemen
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 100 SAM sites[17]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1,400 artillery pieces
(Both ground & air defence)[17]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 240 aircraft [17]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 2,032 armoured vehicles & tanks[17]

Russia Russian volunteers, unknown number [19][20]
Casualties and losses

Kosovo Liberation Army 1,500 insurgents killed (per the KLA)[21]
Kosovo Liberation Army 2,057 insurgents killed (per the HLC)[22]

United States 2 killed (non-combat) and 3 captured[23][24]
United States 2 aircraft shot down and 3 damaged[25][26][27][28]
United States Two AH-64 Apaches and an AV-8B Harrier crashed (non-combat)[29]
NATO 47 UAVs shot down[30]

France Possible unknown number of DGSE officers killed[31]

Caused by KLA:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 300+ soldiers killed (per the Yugoslav Army)[32]
Caused by NATO:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1,008–1,200 killed[lower-alpha 2]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 14 tanks,[37] 18 APCs, 20 artillery pieces[38] and 121 aircraft and helicopters destroyed[39]

Caused by KLA and NATO:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1,035 killed (per the HLC)[22]

Albania 8,661 Kosovar Albanian civilians killed or missing[40]
Albania 90% of Kosovar Albanians displaced during the war[41] (848,000–863,000 expelled from Kosovo,[42][43][44] 590,000 Kosovar Albanians displaced within Kosovo)[41]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1,730[22][45]–3,500[46][47] Serb and other non-Albanian civilians killed or missing
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 230,000 Kosovo Serbs, Romani and other non-Albanian civilians displaced[48]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/Albania Civilian deaths caused by NATO bombing; 489–528 (per Human Rights Watch) or 1,200–5,700 (per Yugolslavia);[49] also includes China 3 Chinese journalists killed)

13,548 civilians and fighters dead overall (Albanians, Serbs, Bosniaks, Roma)[50]

The Kosovo War was an armed conflict in Kosovo that started in late February 1998[51][52] and lasted until 11 June 1999.[53] It was fought by the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (by this time, consisting of the Republics of Montenegro and Serbia), which controlled Kosovo before the war, and the Kosovo Albanian rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), with air support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) from 24 March 1999, and ground support from the Albanian army.[54]

The KLA, formed in 1991,[55] initiated its first campaign in 1995 when it launched attacks targeting Serbian law enforcement in Kosovo, and in June 1996 the group claimed responsibility for acts of sabotage targeting Kosovo police stations. In 1997, the organisation acquired a large amount of arms through weapons smuggling from Albania, following a rebellion which saw large numbers of weapons looted from the country's police and army posts. In 1998, KLA attacks targeting Yugoslav authorities in Kosovo resulted in an increased presence of Serb paramilitaries and regular forces who subsequently began pursuing a campaign of retribution targeting KLA sympathisers and political opponents[56] in a drive which killed 1,500 to 2,000 civilians and KLA combatants.[57][58] After attempts at a diplomatic solution failed, NATO intervened, justifying the campaign in Kosovo as a "humanitarian war".[59] This precipitated a mass expulsion of Kosovar Albanians as the Yugoslav forces continued to fight during the aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia (March–June 1999).[60][61] By 2000, investigations had recovered the remains of almost three thousand victims of all ethnicities,[62] and in 2001 a United Nations administered Supreme Court, based in Kosovo, found that there had been "a systematic campaign of terror, including murders, rapes, arsons and severe maltreatments", but that Yugoslav troops had tried to remove rather than eradicate the Albanian population.[63]

The war ended with the Kumanovo Treaty, with Yugoslav and Serb forces[64] agreeing to withdraw from Kosovo to make way for an international presence.[65][66] The Kosovo Liberation Army disbanded soon after this, with some of its members going on to fight for the UÇPMB in the Preševo Valley[67] and others joining the National Liberation Army (NLA) and Albanian National Army (ANA) during the armed ethnic conflict in Macedonia,[68] while others went on to form the Kosovo Police.[69] After the war, a list was conducted which documented that 13,517 people were killed or went missing in the conflict.[40] The Yugoslav and Serb forces caused the displacement of between 1.2 million[70] to 1.45 million Kosovo Albanians.[71] After the war, around 200,000 Serbs, Romani and other non-Albanians fled Kosovo.

The NATO bombing campaign has remained controversial, as it did not gain the approval of the UN Security Council and because it caused at least 488 Yugoslav civilian deaths,[72] including substantial numbers of Kosovar refugees.[73][74]


Kosovo in Tito's Yugoslavia (1945–1980)

The modern Albanian-Serbian conflict has its roots in the explusion of the Albanians in 1877-1878 from areas that became incorporated into the Principality of Serbia.[75][76] Tensions between the Serbian and Albanian communities in Kosovo simmered throughout the 20th century and occasionally erupted into major violence, particularly during the First Balkan War (1912–13), World War I (1914–18), and World War II (1939–45). After 1945 the socialist government under Josip Broz Tito systematically repressed all manifestations of nationalism throughout Yugoslavia, seeking to ensure that no republic or nationality gained dominance over the others. In particular, Tito diluted the power of Serbia—the largest and most populous republic—by establishing autonomous governments in the Serbian province of Vojvodina in the north and Kosovo and Metohija in the south. Kosovo's borders did not precisely match the areas of ethnic Albanian settlement in Yugoslavia (significant numbers of Albanians remained in the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). Kosovo's formal autonomy, established under the 1945 Yugoslav constitution, initially meant relatively little in practice. The secret police (the UDBA) cracked down hard on nationalists. In 1956 a number of Albanians went on trial in Kosovo on charges of espionage and subversion. The threat of separatism was in fact minimal, as the few underground groups aiming for union with Albania had little political significance. Their long-term impact became substantial, though, as some—particularly the Revolutionary Movement for Albanian Unity, founded[when?] by Adem Demaçi—would eventually form the political core of the Kosovo Liberation Army (founded in 1990). Demaci himself was imprisoned in 1964 along with many of his followers. Yugoslavia underwent a period of economic and political crisis in 1969, as a massive government program of economic reform widened the gap between the rich north and poor south of the country.

Student demonstrations and riots in Belgrade in June 1968 spread to Kosovo in November of the same year, but Yugoslav security forces quelled them. However, Tito conceded some of the students' demands—in particular, representative powers for Albanians in both the Serbian and Yugoslav state bodies and better recognition of the Albanian language. The University of Pristina was established as an independent institution in 1970, ending a long period when the institution had been run as an outpost of Belgrade University. The lack of Albanian-language educational materials in Yugoslavia hampered Albanian education in Kosovo, so an agreement was struck with Albania itself to supply textbooks.

In 1969 the Serbian Orthodox Church ordered its clergy to compile data on the ongoing problems of Serbs in Kosovo, seeking to pressure the government in Belgrade to do more to protect the interests of Serbs there.[citation needed]

In 1974 Kosovo's political status improved further when a new Yugoslav constitution granted an expanded set of political rights. Along with Vojvodina, Kosovo was declared a province and gained many of the powers of a fully-fledged republic: a seat on the federal presidency and its own assembly, police force and national bank.[77]

After the death of Tito (1980–86)

Provincial power was still exercised by the Communist Party, but now devolved mainly to ethnic Albanian communists. Tito's death on 4 May 1980 ushered in a long period of political instability, worsened by growing economic crisis and nationalist unrest. The first major outbreak occurred in Kosovo's main city, Pristina, when a protest of University of Pristina students over long queues in their university canteen rapidly escalated and in late March and early April 1981 spread throughout Kosovo, causing mass demonstrations in several towns. The disturbances were quelled by the Presidency of Yugoslavia proclaiming a state of emergency, sending in riot police and the army, which resulted in numerous casualties.

Communist hard-liners instituted a fierce crackdown on nationalism of all kinds. Kosovo endured a heavy secret-police presence throughout most of the 1980s that ruthlessly suppressed any unauthorised nationalist manifestations, both Albanian and Serbian. According to a report quoted by Mark Thompson, as many as 580,000 inhabitants of Kosovo were arrested, interrogated, interned or reprimanded. Thousands of these lost their jobs or were expelled from their educational establishments. During this time tension between the Albanian and Serbian communities continued to escalate.

In February 1982 a group of priests from Serbia proper petitioned their bishops to ask "why the Serbian Church is silent" and why it did not campaign against "the destruction, arson and sacrilege of the holy shrines of Kosovo". Such concerns did attract interest in Belgrade. Stories appeared from time to time in the Belgrade media claiming that Serbs and Montenegrins were being persecuted. There was a perception among Serbian nationalists that Serbs were being driven out of Kosovo.

In addition to all this, the worsening state of Kosovo's economy made the province a poor choice for Serbs seeking work. Albanians, as well as Serbs, tended to favor their compatriots when hiring new employees, but the number of jobs was too few for the population. Kosovo was the poorest entity of Yugoslavia: the average per capita income was $795, compared with the national average of $2,635.

In 1981 it was reported that some 4,000 Serbs moved from Kosovo to central Serbia after the Kosovo Albanian riots in March that resulted in several Serb deaths and the desecration of Serbian Orthodox architecture and graveyards.[78] Serbia reacted with a plan to reduce the power of Albanians in the province and a propaganda campaign that claimed Serbs were being pushed out of the province primarily by the growing Albanian population, rather than the bad state of the economy.[79] 33 nationalist formations were dismantled by Yugoslav police, who sentenced some 280 people (800 fined, 100 under investigation) and seized arms caches and propaganda material.[80]

Kosovo and the rise of Slobodan Milošević (1986–90)

In 1987 David Binder wrote in The New York Times about the growing ethnic tension in Yugoslavia and rising nationalism among Albanians in Kosovo and referred to the Paraćin massacre, where an ethnic Albanian soldier in the JNA killed four fellow soldiers.[81] Binder also—writing of Slobodan Milošević's deposing of Dragiša Pavlović as head of Belgrade's party organisation shortly before—wrote that "Mr. Milosevic accused Mr. Pavlovic of being an appeaser who was soft on Albanian radicals", and that "Mr. Milosevic and his supporters appear to be staking their careers on a strategy of confrontation with the Kosovo ethnic Albanians".[81] The article quotes the Federal Secretary for National Defence, Fleet Adm. Branko Mamula, who claimed that "from 1981 to 1987, 216 illegal Albanian organisations with 1,435 members were discovered in the JNA". Mamula had also said that ethnic Albanian subversives had been preparing for "killing officers and soldiers, poisoning food and water, sabotage, breaking into weapons arsenals and stealing arms and ammunition, desertion and causing flagrant nationalist incidents in army units".[81]

In Kosovo an increasingly poisonous atmosphere between Serbs and Albanians led to wild rumors being spread and otherwise trivial incidents being blown out of proportion. It was against this tense background that the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) conducted a survey of Serbs who had left Kosovo in 1985 and 1986, which concluded that a considerable number had left under pressure from Albanians.[82]

The so-called SANU Memorandum, leaked in September 1986, was a draft document that focused on the political difficulties facing Serbs in Yugoslavia, pointing to Tito's deliberate hobbling of Serbia's power and the difficulties faced by Serbs outside Serbia proper. It paid special attention to Kosovo, arguing that the Kosovo Serbs were being subjected to "physical, political, legal and cultural genocide" in an "open and total war" that had been ongoing since the spring of 1981. It claimed that Kosovo's status in 1986 was a worse historical defeat for the Serbs than any event since liberation from the Ottomans in 1804, thus ranking it above such catastrophes as the World wars occupations. The Memorandum's authors claimed that 200,000 Serbs had moved out of the province over the previous 20 years and warned that there would soon be none left "unless things change radically." The remedy, according to the Memorandum, was for "genuine security and unambiguous equality for all peoples living in Kosovo and Metohija [to be] established" and "objective and permanent conditions for the return of the expelled [Serbian] nation [to be] created." It concluded that "Serbia must not be passive and wait and see what the others will say, as it has done so often in the past." The SANU Memorandum provoked split reactions: Albanians saw it as a call for Serbian supremacy at the local level, claiming the Serb emigrants had left Kosovo for economic reasons, while the Slovenes and Croats saw a threat in the call for a more assertive Serbia. Serbs were divided: many welcomed it, while the Communist old guard strongly attacked its message. One of those who denounced it was Serbian Communist Party official Slobodan Milošević.

In November 1988 Kosovo's head of the provincial committee was arrested. In March 1989 Milošević announced an "anti-bureaucratic revolution" in Kosovo and Vojvodina, curtailing their autonomy as well as imposing a curfew and a state of emergency in Kosovo due to violent demonstrations, resulting in 24 deaths (including two policemen). Milošević and his government claimed that the constitutional changes were necessary to protect Kosovo's remaining Serbs against harassment from the Albanian majority.

Constitutional amendments (1989–94)


On 17 November 1988 Kaqusha Jashari and Azem Vllasi were forced to resign from the leadership of the League of Communists of Kosovo (LCK).[83][84][85] In early 1989 the Serbian Assembly proposed amendments to the Constitution of Serbia that would remove the word "Socialist" from the Serbian Republic's title, establish multi-party elections, remove the independence of institutions of the autonomous provinces such as Kosovo and rename Kosovo as the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija.[86][87] In February Kosovar Albanians demonstrated in large numbers against the proposal, emboldened by striking miners.[85][88] Serbs in Belgrade protested against the Kosovo Albanian's separatism.[89] On 3 March 1989 the Presidency of Yugoslavia imposed special measures assigning responsibility for public security to the federal government.[88] On 23 March the Assembly of Kosovo voted to accept the proposed amendments although most Albanian delegates abstained.[88] In early 1990 Kosovar Albanians held mass demonstrations against the special measures, which were lifted on 18 April 1990 and responsibility for public security was again assigned to Serbia.[88][90]

On 8 May 1989 Milošević became President of the Presidency of Serbia, which was confirmed on 6 December.[88] On 22 January 1990 the 14th congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) abolished the party's position as the only legal political party in Yugoslavia.[91] In January 1990 the Yugoslav government announced it would press ahead with the creation of a multi-party system.[91]

On 26 June 1990 Serbian authorities closed the Kosovo Assembly, citing special circumstances.[90] On 1 or 2 July 1990 Serbia approved the new amendments to the Constitution of Serbia in a referendum.[90][92] Also on 2 July, 114 ethnic Albanian delegates of the 180-member Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo an independent republic within Yugoslavia.[90][88] On 5 July the Serbian Assembly dissolved the Kosovo Assembly.[90][88] Serbia also dissolved the provincial executive council and assumed full and direct control of the province.[93] Serbia took over management of Kosovo's principal Albanian-language media, halting Albanian-language broadcasts.[93] On 4 September 1990 Kosovar Albanians observed a 24-hour general strike, virtually shutting down the province.[93]

On 16 or 17 July 1990 the League of Communists of Serbia (LCS) combined with the Socialist Alliance of Working People of Serbia to become the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), and Milošević became its first president.[94][88] On 8 August 1990 several amendments to the federal Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) Constitution were adopted enabling the establishment of a multi-party election system.[92]

On 7 September 1990 the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo was promulgated by the disbanded Assembly of Kosovo.[92] Milošević responded by ordering the arrest of the deputies of the disbanded Assembly of Kosovo.[93] The new controversial Serbian Constitution was promulgated on 28 September 1990.[87] Multi-party elections were held in Serbia on 9 and 26 December 1990 after which Milošević became President of Serbia.[88] In September 1991 Kosovar Albanians held an unofficial referendum in which they voted overwhelmingly for independence.[88] On 24 May 1992 Kosovar Albanians held unofficial elections for an assembly and president of the Republic of Kosovo.[88]

On 5 August 1991 the Serbian Assembly suspended the Priština daily Rilindja,[93][95] following the Law on Public Information of 29 March 1991 and establishment of the Panorama publishing house on 6 November which incorporated Rilindja, which was declared unconstitutional by the federal authorities.[96] United Nations Special Rapporteur Tadeusz Mazowiecki reported on 26 February 1993 that the police had intensified their repression of the Albanian population since 1990, including depriving them of their basic rights, destroying their educations system, and large numbers of political dismissals of civil servants.[96]

Eruption of War

The slide to war (1995–1998)

Template:Kosovo War

Rugova's policy of passive resistance succeeded in keeping Kosovo quiet during the war with Slovenia, and the wars in Croatia and Bosnia during the early 1990s. However, as evidenced by the emergence of the KLA, this came at the cost of increasing frustration among Kosovo's Albanian population. In the mid-1990s, Rugova pleaded for a United Nations peacekeeping force for Kosovo. In 1997, Milošević was promoted to the presidency of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (comprising Serbia and Montenegro since its inception in April 1992).

Continuing repression[citation needed] convinced many Albanians that only armed resistance would change the situation. On 22 April 1996, four attacks on Serbian security personnel were carried out almost simultaneously in several parts of Kosovo. A hitherto-unknown organisation calling itself the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA) subsequently claimed responsibility. The nature of the KLA was at first mysterious. At first, it seemed that their only goals were to stop repression from Yugoslav authorities.[citation needed]

Serbian victims during insurgency

As stated by Jakup Krasniqi, who was the spokesman of the group, Kosovo Liberation Army was formed by some members from Democratic League of Kosovo, a political party led by Ibrahim Rugova.[97] Kosovo Liberation Army shared with Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), a party led by Ibrahim Rugova, common goal of ending repression from Belgrade and making Kosovo independent, but KLA was opposed on, what they called, 'internal rule' of Kosovo by LDK.[97]

Also, KLA goals included the establishment of a Greater Albanian, state stretching into surrounding FYR Macedonia, Montenegro and southern Serbia.[97][98] In July 1998, in an interview for Der Spiegel, Jakup Krasniqi publicly announced that the KLA’s goal was the unification of all Albanian-inhabited lands.[98] Sulejman Selimi, a General Commander of KLA in 1998-1999, said: [97]

There is de facto Albanian nation. The tragedy is that European powers after World War I decided to divide that nation between several Balkan states. We are now fighting to unify the nation, to liberate all Albanians, including those in Macedonia, Montenegro, and other parts of Serbia. We are not just a liberation army for Kosovo.

While Rugova promised to uphold the minority rights of Serbs in Kosovo, KLA was much less tolerant. Selimi stated that 'Serbs who have blood on their hands would have to leave the Kosovo'.[97]

It is widely believed[by whom?] that the KLA received financial and material support from the Kosovo Albanian diaspora.[99][100] In early 1997, Albania collapsed into chaos following the fall of President Sali Berisha. Military stockpiles were looted with impunity by criminal gangs, with much of the hardware ending up in western Kosovo and boosting the growing KLA arsenal. Bujar Bukoshi, shadow Prime Minister in exile (in Zürich, Switzerland), created a group called FARK (Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova) which was reported to have been disbanded and absorbed by the KLA in 1998.[citation needed] The Yugoslav government considered the KLA to be "terrorists" and "insurgents" who indiscriminately attacked police and civilians, while most Albanians saw the KLA as "freedom fighters". In 1998, the U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organisation,[100] and in 1999 the Republican Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate expressed its troubles with the "effective alliance" of the Democratic Clinton administration with the KLA due to "numerous reports from reputable unofficial sources ".[101] In 2004, John Pilger claimed that for six years prior to 1998, the KLA had been regarded by the United States as a terrorist group[102]

In 2000, a BBC article stated that Nato at War shows how the United States, which had described the KLA as "terrorist", now sought a relationship with the group.[103] While the US officially described the KLA as terrorists, author Alastair MacKenzie claims the KLA received training by the US' closest NATO-ally, the United Kingdom, since 1998 in a training camp in the mountains above the northern Albanian town of Bajram Curri.[104]

Early in 1998, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard referred to the KLA as terrorists.[105] Responding to criticism, he later clarified to the House Committee on International Relations that "while it has committed 'terrorist acts,' it has 'not been classified legally by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization.'"[101] In June 1998, he held talks with two men who claimed they were political leaders of the KLA.[105]

Meanwhile, the U.S. held an "outer wall of sanctions" on Yugoslavia which had been tied to a series of issues, Kosovo being one of them. These were maintained despite the agreement at Dayton to end all sanctions. The Clinton administration claimed that Dayton bound Yugoslavia to hold discussions with Rugova over Kosovo.

The crisis escalated in December 1997 at the Peace Implementation Council meeting in Bonn, where the international community (as defined in the Dayton Agreement) agreed to give the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina sweeping powers, including the right to dismiss elected leaders. At the same time, Western diplomats insisted that Kosovo be discussed, and that Yugoslavia be responsive to Albanian demands there. The delegation from Yugoslavia stormed out of the meetings in protest.[106]

This was followed by the return of the Contact Group that oversaw the last phases of the Bosnian conflict and declarations from European powers demanding that Yugoslavia solve the problem in Kosovo.

War begins

KLA attacks intensified, centering on the Drenica valley area with the compound of Adem Jashari being a focal point. Days after Robert Gelbard described the KLA as a terrorist group, Serbian police responded to the KLA attacks in the Likošane area, and pursued some of the KLA to Čirez, resulting in the deaths of 16 Albanian fighters[107] and four Serbian policemen.[108]

Despite some accusations of summary executions and killings of civilians, condemnations from Western capitals were not as voluble as they would become later. Serb police began to pursue Jashari and his followers in the village of Donje Prekaz. A massive firefight at the Jashari compound led to the massacre of 60 Albanians, of which eighteen were women and ten were under the age of sixteen.[109] This March 5, 1998 event provoked massive condemnation from the western capitals. Madeleine Albright stated that "this crisis is not an internal affair of the FRY".

On March 24, Yugoslav forces surrounded the village of Glodjane and attacked a rebel compound there.[110] Despite superior firepower, the Yugoslav forces failed to destroy the KLA unit which had been their objective. Although there were deaths and severe injuries on the Albanian side, the insurgency in Glodjane was far from stamped out. It was in fact to become one of the strongest centers of resistance in the upcoming war.

The KLA's first goal was thus to merge its Drenica stronghold with their stronghold in Albania proper, and this would shape the first few months of the fighting.[citation needed][111]

A new Yugoslav government was also formed at this time, led by the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Serbian Radical Party. Ultra-nationalist Radical Party chairman Vojislav Šešelj became a deputy prime minister. This increased the dissatisfaction with the country's position among Western diplomats and spokespersons.

In early April, Serbia arranged for a referendum on the issue of foreign interference in Kosovo. Serbian voters decisively rejected foreign interference in this crisis.[112] Meanwhile, the KLA claimed much of the area in and around Deçan and ran a territory based in the village of Glođane, encompassing its surroundings. So, on May 31, 1998, the Yugoslav army and the Serb Ministry of the Interior police began an operation to clear the border of the KLA. NATO's response to this offensive was mid-June's Operation Determined Falcon, an air show over the Yugoslav borders.[113]

During this time, the Yugoslav President Milošević reached an arrangement with Boris Yeltsin of Russia to stop offensive operations and prepare for talks with the Albanians, who, through this whole crisis, refused to talk to the Serbian side, but not the Yugoslav. In fact, the only meeting between Milošević and Ibrahim Rugova happened on 15 May in Belgrade, two days after Richard Holbrooke announced that it would take place. One month later, Holbrooke, after a trip to Belgrade where he threatened Milošević that if he did not obey, "what's left of your country will implode", he visited the border areas affected by the fighting in early June; there he was famously photographed with the KLA. The publication of these images sent a signal to the KLA, its supporters and sympathisers, and to observers in general, that the U.S. was decisively backing the KLA and the Albanian population in Kosovo.[citation needed]

The Yeltsin agreement included Milošević's allowing international representatives to set up a mission in Kosovo to monitor the situation there. This was the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) that began operations in early July. The American government welcomed this part of the agreement, but denounced the initiative's call for a mutual cease fire. Rather, the Americans demanded that the Serbian-Yugoslavian side should cease fire "without linkage ... to a cessation in terrorist activities".

All through June and into mid-July, the KLA maintained its advance. KLA surrounded Peć, Đakovica, and had set up an interim capital in the town of Mališevo (north of Orahovac). The KLA troops infiltrated Suva Reka, and the northwest of Pristina. They moved on to the Belacevec coal pits and captured them in late June, threatening energy supplies in the region. Their tactics as usual focused mainly on guerilla and mountain warfare, and harassing and ambushing Yugoslav forces and Serb police patrols.[citation needed]

The tide turned in mid-July when the KLA captured Orahovac. On 17 July 1998, two close-by villages to Orahovac, Retimlije and Opteruša, were also captured. Similarly, less systematic events took place in Orahovac and the larger Serb-populated village of Velika Hoča. The Orthodox monastery of Zociste three miles (5 km) from Orehovac—famous for the relics of the Saints Kosmas and Damianos and revered also by local Albanians—was robbed, its monks deported to a KLA prison camp, and, while empty, the monastery church and all its buildings were levelled to the ground by mining. This led to a series of Serb and Yugoslav offensives which would continue into the beginning of August.[citation needed]

A new set of KLA attacks in mid-August triggered Yugoslavian operations in south-central Kosovo south of the Pristina-Peć road. This wound down with the capture of Klečka on August 23 and the discovery of a KLA-run crematorium in which some of their victims were found. The KLA began an offensive on September 1 around Prizren, causing Yugoslavian military activity there. In western Kosovo, around Peć, another offensive caused condemnation as international officials expressed fear that a large column of displaced people would be attacked.[citation needed]

In early mid-September, for the first time, KLA activity was reported in northern Kosovo around Podujevo. Finally, in late September, a determined effort was made to clear the KLA out of the northern and central parts of Kosovo and out of the Drenica valley itself. During this time many threats were made from Western capitals but these were tempered somewhat by the elections in Bosnia, as they did not want Serbian Democrats and Radicals to win. Following the elections, however, the threats intensified once again but a galvanising event was needed. They got it on September 28, when the mutilated corpses of a family were discovered by KDOM outside the village of Gornje Obrinje; the bloody doll from there became the rallying image for the ensuing war.[citation needed]


Morale was a serious problem for Serb forces; intelligence surveys found that many soldiers disagreed with their comrades' actions. One tank commander reported, "for the entire time I was in Kosovo, I never saw an enemy soldier and my unit was never once involved in firing at enemy targets. The tanks which cost $2.5 million each were used to slaughter Albanian children... I am ashamed".[114]

However, when retreating from Kosovo after NATO intervention, Yugoslav units appeared combat effective with high morale and displaying large holdings of undamaged equipment.[115] Weeks before the end of hostilities, David Fromkin has noted that ˝it seemed possible that NATO unity might crack before Yugoslav morale did.˝[116] When Clinton announced it would not deploy ground troops, that made a tremendous boost to Serbian morale.[117]

UN, NATO, and OSCE (1998–1999)

Kosovo Albanian refugees in 1999

On 9 June 1998, US President Bill Clinton declared a "national emergency" (state of emergency) due to the "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States" imposed by Yugoslavia and Serbia over the Kosovo War.[118]

On 23 September 1998 acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1199. This expressed 'grave concern' at reports reaching the Secretary General that over 230,000 people had been displaced from their homes by 'the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Serbian security forces and the Yugoslav Army',[119] demanding that all parties in Kosovo and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) cease hostilities and maintain a ceasefire. On 24 September the North Atlantic Council (NAC) of NATO issued an "activation warning" (ACTWARN) taking NATO to an increased level of military preparedness for both a limited air option and a phased air campaign in Kosovo.[120] The other major issue for those who saw no option but to resort to the use of force was the estimated 250,000 displaced Albanians, 30,000 of whom were out in the woods, without warm clothing or shelter, with winter fast approaching.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia, Christopher Hill, was leading shuttle diplomacy between an Albanian delegation, led by Rugova, and the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities. It was these meetings which were shaping what was to be the peace plan to be discussed during a period of planned NATO occupation of Kosovo. During a period of two weeks, threats intensified, culminating in NATO's Activation Order being given. NATO was ready to begin airstrikes, and Richard Holbrooke went to Belgrade in the hope of reaching an agreement with Milošević. Officially, the international community demanded an end to fighting. It specifically demanded that the Yugoslavia end its offensives against the KLA whilst attempting to convince the KLA to drop its bid for independence. Moreover, attempts were made to persuade Milošević to permit NATO peacekeeping troops to enter Kosovo. This, they argued, would allow for the Christopher Hill peace process to proceed and yield a peace agreement.

On 13 October 1998, the North Atlantic Council issued activation orders (ACTORDs) for the execution of both limited air strikes and a phased air campaign in Yugoslavia which would begin in approximately 96 hours.[121] On 15 October the NATO Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) Agreement for a ceasefire was signed, and the deadline for withdrawal was extended to 27 October.[122][123] The Serbian withdrawal commenced on or around 25 October 1998, and Operation Eagle Eye commenced on 30 October.[122][123]

The KVM was a large contingent of unarmed Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) peace monitors (officially known as verifiers) that moved into Kosovo. Their inadequacy was evident from the start. They were nicknamed the "clockwork oranges" in reference to their brightly coloured vehicles. Fighting resumed in December 1998 after both sides broke the ceasefire,[124] and this surge in violence culminated in the killing of Zvonko Bojanić, the Serb mayor of the town of Kosovo Polje. Yugoslav authorities responded by launching a crackdown against KLA militants.[125]

The January to March 1999 phase of the war brought increasing insecurity in urban areas, including bombings and murders. Such attacks took place during the Rambouillet talks in February and as the Kosovo Verification Agreement unraveled in March. Killings on the roads continued and increased. There were military confrontations in, among other places, the Vučitrn area in February and the heretofore unaffected Kačanik area in early March.

On 15 January 1999 the Račak massacre occurred when "45 Kosovan Albanian farmers were rounded up, led up a hill and massacred".[126] The bodies had been discovered by OSCE monitors, including Head of Mission William Walker, and foreign news correspondents.[127][128] Yugoslavia denied a massacre took place.[128] The Račak massacre was the culmination of the KLA attacks and Yugoslav reprisals that had continued throughout the winter of 1998–1999. The incident was immediately condemned as a massacre by the Western countries and the United Nations Security Council, and later became the basis of one of the charges of war crimes leveled against Milošević and his top officials. This massacre was the turning point of the war. NATO decided that the conflict could only be settled by introducing a military peacekeeping force under the auspices of NATO, to forcibly restrain the two sides. Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, had been subjected to heavy firefights and segregation according to OSCE reports.[129]

The Rambouillet Conference (January–March 1999)

On 30 January 1999 NATO issued a statement announcing that the North Atlantic Council had agreed that "the NATO Secretary General may authorise air strikes against targets on FRY territory" to "[compel] compliance with the demands of the international community and [to achieve] a political settlement".[130] While this was most obviously a threat to the Milošević government, it also included a coded threat to the Albanians: any decision would depend on the "position and actions of the Kosovo Albanian leadership and all Kosovo Albanian armed elements in and around Kosovo."[citation needed]

Also on 30 January 1999 the Contact Group issued a set of "non-negotiable principles" which made up a package known as "Status Quo Plus"—effectively the restoration of Kosovo's pre-1990 autonomy within Serbia, plus the introduction of democracy and supervision by international organisations. It also called for a peace conference to be held in February 1999 at the Château de Rambouillet, outside Paris.

The Rambouillet talks began on 6 February 1999, with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana negotiating with both sides. They were intended to conclude by 19 February. The FR Yugoslavian delegation was led by then president of Serbia Milan Milutinović, while Milošević himself remained in Belgrade. This was in contrast to the 1995 Dayton conference that ended the war in Bosnia, where Milošević negotiated in person. The absence of Milošević was interpreted as a sign that the real decisions were being made back in Belgrade, a move that aroused criticism in Yugoslavia as well as abroad; Kosovo's Serbian Orthodox bishop Artemije traveled all the way to Rambouillet to protest that the delegation was wholly unrepresentative. At this time speculation about an indictment of Milošević for war crimes was rife, so his absence may have been motivated by fear of arrest.

Equipment of 72nd Special Brigade Yugoslav Army in the 1999 Kosovo War.

The first phase of negotiations was successful. In particular, a statement was issued by the Contact Group co-chairmen on 23 February 1999 that the negotiations "have led to a consensus on substantial autonomy for Kosovo, including on mechanisms for free and fair elections to democratic institutions, for the governance of Kosovo, for the protection of human rights and the rights of members of national communities; and for the establishment of a fair judicial system". They went on to say that "a political framework is now in place", leaving the further work of finalising "the implementation Chapters of the Agreement, including the modalities of the invited international civilian and military presence in Kosovo".

While the accords did not fully satisfy the Albanians, they were much too radical for the Yugoslavs, who responded by substituting a drastically revised text that even Russia (ally of FR Yugoslavia) found unacceptable. It sought to reopen the painstakingly negotiated political status of Kosovo and deleted all of the proposed implementation measures. Among many other changes in the proposed new version, it eliminated the entire chapter on humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, removed virtually all international oversight and dropped any mention of invoking "the will of the people [of Kosovo]" in determining the final status of the province.

On 18 March 1999, the Albanian, American, and British delegations signed what became known as the Rambouillet Accords while the Yugoslav and Russian delegations refused. The accords called for NATO administration of Kosovo as an autonomous province within Yugoslavia, a force of 30,000 NATO troops to maintain order in Kosovo; an unhindered right of passage for NATO troops on Yugoslav territory, including Kosovo; and immunity for NATO and its agents to Yugoslav law. They would have also permitted a continuing Yugoslav army presence of 1,500 troops for border monitoring, backed by up to 1,000 troops to perform command and support functions, as well as a small number of border police, 2,500 ordinary MUP for public security purposes (although these were expected to draw down and to be transformed), and 3,000 local police.[131]

Although the Yugoslav government cited military provisions of Appendix B of the Rambouillet provisions as the reason for its objections, claiming that it was an unacceptable violation of Yugoslavia's sovereignty, these provisions were essentially the same as had been applied to Bosnia for the SFOR (Stabilisation Force) mission there after the Dayton Agreement in 1995. The two sides did not discuss the issue in detail because of their disagreements on more fundamental problems.[132] In particular, the Serb side rejected the idea of any NATO troop presence in Kosovo to replace their security forces, preferring unarmed U.N. observers. Milošević himself had refused to discuss the annex after informing NATO that it was unacceptable, even after he was asked to propose amendments to the provisions which would have made them acceptable.[133]

Events proceeded rapidly after the failure at Rambouillet and the alternative Yugoslav proposal.[134] The international monitors from the OSCE withdrew on 22 March, for fear of the monitors' safety ahead of the anticipated NATO bombing campaign.[134]

On 23 March, the Serbian assembly accepted the principle of autonomy for Kosovo and non-military part of the agreement, while rejecting a NATO troop presence.[134][135]

NATO bombing timeline

A Tomahawk cruise missile launches from the aft missile deck of USS Gonzalez on March 31, 1999
A U.S. F-117 Nighthawk taxis to the runway before taking off from Aviano Air Base, Italy, on March 24, 1999

On 23 March 1999 at 21:30 UTC Richard Holbrooke returned to Brussels and announced that peace talks had failed and formally handed the matter to NATO for military action.[136][137] Hours before the announcement, Yugoslavia announced on national television it had declared a state of emergency citing an imminent threat of war and began a huge mobilisation of troops and resources.[136][138]

On 23 March 1999 at 22:17 UTC the Secretary General of NATO, Javier Solana, announced he had directed the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), US Army General Wesley Clark, to "initiate air operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."[138][139] On 24 March at 19:00 UTC NATO started its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.[140][141]

NATO's bombing campaign lasted from 24 March to 11 June 1999, involving up to 1,000 aircraft operating mainly from bases in Italy and aircraft carriers stationed in the Adriatic. Tomahawk cruise missiles were also extensively used, fired from aircraft, ships, and submarines. With the exception of Greece, all NATO members were involved to some degree. Over the ten weeks of the conflict, NATO aircraft flew over 38,000 combat missions. For the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), it was the second time it had participated in a conflict since World War II after the Bosnian War.

The proclaimed goal of the NATO operation was summed up by its spokesman as "Serbs out, peacekeepers in, refugees back". That is, Yugoslav troops would have to leave Kosovo and be replaced by international peacekeepers to ensure that the Albanian refugees could return to their homes. The campaign was initially designed to destroy Yugoslav air defences and high-value military targets. It did not go very well at first, with bad weather hindering many sorties early on. NATO had seriously underestimated Milošević's will to resist: few in Brussels thought that the campaign would last more than a few days, and although the initial bombardment was not insignificant, it did not match the intensity of the bombing of Baghdad in 1991.

Post-strike damage assessment of the Sremska Mitrovica ordnance storage depot, Serbia

NATO military operations switched increasingly to attacking Yugoslav units on the ground, hitting targets as small as individual tanks and artillery pieces, as well as continuing with the strategic bombardment. This activity was, however, heavily constrained by politics, as each target needed to be approved by all nineteen member states. Montenegro was bombed on several occasions but NATO eventually desisted to prop up the precarious position of its anti-Milošević leader, Đukanović.

At the start of May, a NATO aircraft attacked an Albanian refugee convoy, believing it was a Yugoslav military convoy, killing around fifty people. NATO admitted its mistake five days later and the Yugoslavs accused NATO of deliberately attacking the refugees;[citation needed] A later report conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) entitled the "Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia"[142] opined that "civilians were not deliberately attacked in this incident" and that "neither the aircrew nor their commanders displayed the degree of recklessness in failing to take precautionary measures which would sustain criminal charges." On May 7, NATO bombs hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese journalists and outraging Chinese public opinion. The United States and NATO later apologised for the bombing, saying that it occurred because of an outdated map provided by the CIA although this was challenged by a joint report from The Observer (UK) and Politiken (Denmark) newspapers[143] which claimed that NATO intentionally bombed the embassy because it was being used as a relay station for Yugoslav army radio signals. However the report by the newspaper contradicts findings in the same report by the ICTY which stated that the root of the failures in target location "appears to stem from the land navigation techniques employed by an intelligence officer."[144] In another incident at the Dubrava prison in Kosovo in May 1999, the Yugoslav government attributed as many as 85 civilian deaths to NATO bombing[citation needed] of the facility after NATO cited Serbian and Yugoslav military activity in the area[145] A Human Rights Watch report later concluded that at least nineteen ethnic Albanian prisoners had been killed by the bombing, but that an uncertain number – probably more than 70 – were killed by Serbian Government forces in the days immediately following the bombing.[145]

Smoke in Novi Sad after NATO bombardment

By the start of April, the conflict appeared little closer to a resolution and NATO countries began to seriously consider conducting ground operations in Kosovo. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was a strong advocate of ground forces and pressured the United States to agree; his strong stance caused some alarm in Washington as American forces would be making the largest contribution to any offensive.[146] U.S. President Bill Clinton was extremely reluctant to commit American forces for a ground offensive. Instead, Clinton authorised a CIA operation to look into methods to destabilise the Yugoslav government without training KLA troops.[147] At the same time, Finnish and Russian diplomatic negotiators continued to try to persuade Milošević to back down. Tony Blair would order 50,000 British soldiers to be made ready for a ground offensive: most of the available British Army.[146]

Milošević finally recognised that Russia would not intervene to defend Yugoslavia despite Moscow's strong anti-NATO rhetoric. He thus accepted the conditions offered by a Finnish–Russian mediation team and agreed to a military presence within Kosovo headed by the UN, but incorporating NATO troops.

The Norwegian special forces Hærens Jegerkommando and Forsvarets Spesialkommando cooperated with the KLA in gathering intelligence information. Preparing for an invasion on 12 June, Norwegian special forces worked with the KLA on the Ramno mountain on the border between Macedonia and Kosovo and acted as scouts to monitor events in Kosovo. Together with British special forces, Norwegian special forces were the first to cross over the border into Kosovo. According to Keith Graves with the television network Sky News, the Norwegians were in Kosovo two days prior to the entry of other forces and were among the first into Pristina.[148] The Hærens Jegerkommando's and Forsvarets Spesialkommando's job was to clear the way between the contending parties and to make local deals to implement the peace deal between the Serbians and the Kosovo Albanians.[149][150]

Yugoslav army withdrawal and the entry of KFOR

On 3 June 1999, Milošević accepted the terms of an international peace plan to end the fighting, with the national parliament adopting the proposal amid contentious debate with delegates coming close to fistfights at some points.[151][152] On 10 June, the North Atlantic Council ratified the agreement and suspended air operations.[153]

U.S. Marines march with local Albanian children down the main street of Zegra on June 28, 1999

On 12 June, after Milošević accepted the conditions, the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) began entering Kosovo. KFOR had been preparing to conduct combat operations, but in the end, its mission was only peacekeeping. It was based upon the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters commanded by then Lieutenant General Mike Jackson of the British Army. It consisted of British forces (a brigade built from 4th Armored and 5th Airborne Brigades), a French Army Brigade, a German Army brigade, which entered from the west while all the other forces advanced from the south, and Italian Army and United States Army brigades.

The first NATO troops to enter Pristina on the 12th of June 1999 were Norwegian special forces from FSK Forsvarets Spesialkommando and soldiers from the British Special Air Service 22 S.A.S, although to NATO's diplomatic embarrassment Russian troops arrived first at the airport. The Norwegian soldiers from FSK Forsvarets Spesialkommando were the first to come in contact with the Russian troops at the airport. FSK's mission was to level the negotiating field between the belligerent parties, and to fine-tune the detailed, local deals needed to implement the peace deal between the Serbians and the Kosovo Albanians.[154][155][156][157]

The U.S. contribution, known as the Initial Entry Force, was led by the 1st Armored Division, commanded by Brigadier General Peterson, and was spearheaded by a platoon from the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment attached to the British Forces. Other units included 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 10th Special Forces Group(Airborne) from Stuttgart Germany and Fort Carson, Colorado, TF 1–6 Infantry (1-6 infantry with C Co 1-35AR) from Baumholder, Germany, the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment from Schweinfurt, Germany, and Echo Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment, also from Schweinfurt, Germany. Also attached to the U.S. force was the Greek Army's 501st Mechanised Infantry Battalion. The initial U.S. forces established their area of operation around the towns of Uroševac, the future Camp Bondsteel, and Gnjilane, at Camp Monteith, and spent four months—the start of a stay which continues to date—establishing order in the southeast sector of Kosovo.

U.S. soldiers escort a Serbian civilian from his home in Zitinje after finding an automatic weapon, July 26, 1999

During the initial incursion, the U.S. soldiers were greeted by Albanians cheering and throwing flowers as U.S. soldiers and KFOR rolled through their villages. Although no resistance was met, three U.S. soldiers from the Initial Entry Force lost their lives in accidents.[158]

On 1 October 1999, approximately 150 paratroopers from Alpha Company, 1/508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team from Vicenza, Italy parachuted into Uroševac as part of Operation Rapid Guardian. The purpose of the mission was primarily to warn Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević of NATO resolve and of its rapid military capability. One U.S. soldier, Army Ranger Sgt. Jason Neil Pringle, was killed during operations after his parachute failed to deploy. The paratroopers of the 1/508th then joined paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne and K.F.O.R. in patrolling various areas of Kosovo, without incident, through 3 October 1999.

On 15 December 1999, Staff Sergeant Joseph Suponcic of 3rd Battalion/10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was killed, when the HMMWV in which he was a passenger struck an anti-tank mine planted by Albanians and meant for the Russian contingent with which SSG Suponcic's team was patrolling in Kosovska Kamenica.

U.S. soldiers maintain crowd control as Albanian residents of Vitina protest in the streets on January 9, 2000

Following the military campaign, the involvement of Russian peacekeepers proved to be tense and challenging to the NATO Kosovo force. The Russians expected to have an independent sector of Kosovo, only to be unhappily surprised with the prospect of operating under NATO command. Without prior communication or coordination with NATO, Russian peacekeeping forces entered Kosovo from Bosnia and Herzegovina and occupied Pristina International Airport ahead of the arrival of NATO forces. This resulted in an incident during which NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark's wish to forcibly block the runways with NATO vehicles, to prevent any Russian reinforcement, was refused by KFOR commander General Mike Jackson.[159]

In 2010, James Blunt described in an interview how his unit was given the assignment of securing Pristina during the advance of the 30,000-strong peacekeeping force and how the Russian army had moved in and taken control of the city's airport before his unit's arrival. Blunt shared a part in the difficult task of addressing the potentially violent international incident. According to Blunt's account there was a stand-off with the Russians, and the NATO Supreme Commander, Wesley Clark, gave provisional orders to over-power them. Whilst these were questioned by Blunt, they were rejected by General Jackson, with the now famous line, "I'm not having my soldiers responsible for starting World War III."[160]

Furthermore, in June 2000, arms trading relations between Russia and Yugoslavia were exposed which led to the retaliation and bombings of Russian Checkpoints and area Police Stations. Outpost Gunner was established on a high point in the Preševo Valley by Echo Battery 1/161 Field Artillery in an attempt to monitor and assist with peacekeeping efforts in the Russian Sector. Operating under the support of ⅔ Field Artillery, 1st Armored Division, the Battery was able to successfully deploy and continuously operate a Firefinder Radar which allowed the NATO forces to keep a closer watch on activities in the Sector and the Preševo Valley. Eventually a deal was struck whereby Russian forces operated as a unit of KFOR but not under the NATO command structure.[161]

Reaction to the war

Because of the country's restrictive media laws, the Yugoslav media carried little coverage of events in Kosovo, and the attitude of other countries to the humanitarian disaster that was occurring there. Thus, few members of the Yugoslav public expected NATO intervention, instead thinking that a diplomatic agreement would be reached.[162]

Support for the war

Support for the Kosovan War and, in particular, the legitimacy of NATO's bombing campaign came from a variety of sources. In a 2009 article, David Clark claimed "Every member of NATO, every EU country, and most of Yugoslavia's neighbours, supported military action."[163] Statements from the leaders of United States, Czech Republic and United Kingdom, respectively, described the war as one "upholding our values, protecting our interests, and advancing the cause of peace",[164] "the first war for values"[163] and one "to avert what would otherwise be a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo."[165] Others included the then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan who was reported by some sources as acknowledging that the NATO action was legitimate[166] who emphasised that there were times when the use of force was legitimate in the pursuit of peace[167] though Annan stressed that the "[UN Security] Council should have been involved in any decision to use force."[167] The distinction between the legality and legitimacy of the intervention was further highlighted in two separate reports. One was conducted by the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, entitled The Kosovo Report,[168] which found that:

[Yugoslav] forces were engaged in a well-planned campaign of terror and expulsion of the Kosovar Albanians. This campaign is most frequently described as one of "ethnic cleansing," intended to drive many, if not all, Kosovar Albanians from Kosovo, destroy the foundations of their society, and prevent them from returning.

It concluded that "the NATO military intervention was illegal but legitimate",[169] The second report was published by the NATO Office of Information and Press[170] which reported that, "the human rights violations committed on a large scale in Kosovo provide an incontestable ground with reference to the humanitarian aspect of NATO's intervention."[171] Some critics note that NATO did not have the backing of the United Nations Security Council meant that its intervention had no legal basis, but according to some legal scholars, "there are nonetheless certain bases for that action that are not legal, but justified."[166]

Aside from politicians and diplomats, commentators and intellectuals also supported the war. Michael Ignatieff called NATOs intervention a "morally justifiable response to ethnic cleansing and the resulting flood of refugees, and not the cause of the flood of refugees"[172] while Christopher Hitchens said NATO intervened only, "when Serbian forces had resorted to mass deportation and full-dress ethnic "cleansing."[173] Writing in The Nation, Richard A. Falk wrote that, "the NATO campaign achieved the removal of Yugoslav military forces from Kosovo and, even more significant, the departure of the dreaded Serbian paramilitary units and police"[174] while an article in The Guardian wrote that for Mary Kaldor, Kosovo represented a laboratory on her thinking for human security, humanitarian intervention and international peacekeeping, the latter two which she defined as, "a genuine belief in the equality of all human beings; and this entails a readiness to risk lives of peacekeeping troops to save the lives of others where this is necessary."[175] Reports stated there had been no peace between Albanians and Serbs, citing the deaths of 1,500 Albanians and displacement of 270,000 prior to NATO intervention.[163]

Criticism of the case for war

Some[who?] criticised the NATO intervention as a political diversionary tactic, coming as it did on the heels of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, pointing to the fact that coverage of the bombing directly replaced coverage of the scandal in American news cycles.[176] Also, some[who?] point out that before the bombing, rather than there being an unusually bloody conflict, the KLA was not engaged in a widespread civil war against Yugoslav forces and the death toll among all concerned (including ethnic Albanians) skyrocketed following NATO intervention.[176]

U.S. President Clinton and his administration were accused of inflating the number of Kosovo Albanians killed by state forces.[177] After the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Chinese President Jiang Zemin said that the US was using its economic and military superiority to aggressively expand its influence and interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Chinese leaders called the NATO campaign a dangerous precedent of naked aggression, a new form of colonialism, and an aggressive war groundless in morality or law. It was seen as part of a plot by the US to destroy Yugoslavia, expand eastward and control all of Europe.[178]

The United Nations Charter does not allow military interventions in other sovereign countries with few exceptions which, in general, need to be decided upon by the United Nations Security Council; this legal enjoinment has proved controversial with many[166][168][169] legal scholars who argue that though the Kosovo War illegal, it was still legitimate. The issue was brought before the UN Security Council by Russia, in a draft resolution which, inter alia, would affirm "that such unilateral use of force constitutes a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter". China, Namibia, and Russia voted for the resolution, the other members against, thus it failed to pass.[179]

The war inflicted many casualties. Already by March 1999, the combination of fighting and the targeting of civilians had left an estimated 1,500–2,000 civilians and combatants dead.[180] Final estimates of the casualties are still unavailable for either side.

Perhaps the most controversial deliberate attack of the war was that made against the headquarters of Serbian television on April 23, 1999, which killed at least fourteen people.[181]

Privately NATO European members were divided about the aims and necessity of the war.[182] Most European allies did not trust the motives of Kosovan Albanians and according to NATO General Wesley Clark, "There was a sense among some that NATO was fighting on the wrong side" in a war between Christians and Muslims.[182]

By contrast, Susan Sontag, who witnessed the 3-year long siege of Sarajevo, said that the NATO intervention came "eight years too late" and that Milosevic should have been stopped already during the bombing of Dubrovnik in 1991.[183]

Democratic League of Kosovo and FARK

The Democratic League of Kosovo led by Ibrahim Rugova had been the leading political entity in Kosovo since its creation in 1989. Its parallel government in exile, was led by Bujar Bukoshi and its Minister of Defence until 1998 was the former Yugoslav colonel Ahmet Krasniqi.[184] DLK politicians opposed the armed conflict and were not ready to accept KLA as a political factor in the region and tried to persuade the population not to support it.[185] At one point Rugova even claimed that it was set up by Serbian intelligence as an excuse to invade,[186] or to discredit DLK itself.[187] Nevertheless, the support for KLA even within DLK membership and specifically in the diaspora grew, together with the dissatisfaction with and antagonism toward DLK.[188] KLA initial personnel were members or former members of the DLK.[187][189] With the changes of the international stance towards KLA and its recognition as a factor in the conflict, DLK's position also shifted. The Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo known as FARK, were established in order to place DLK as a military factor in addition to a political one. A parallel paramilitary structure as FARK was not received well from the KLA side. Ahmet Krasniqi was shot in Tirana on 21 September 1998.[190] The responsible people were not found, although several theories emerged. The Democratic Party of Albania and its leader Sali Berisha, strong supporters of DLK and FARK, accused SHIK and the Albanian government, who from their side were supporting KLA,[191] as the responsible parties.[190] However, FARK was never a determining factor in the war and was not involved in any battles. It did not number more than few hundred men, and it did not show any commitment to fighting the Serbs, accepting a broader autonomy as a solution rather than independence.[190] Some of the FARK officers were incorporated later under the KLA umbrella.[192] Besides FARK, DLK would also politically and diplomatically oppose KLA and their methods. In a meeting with the US president Clinton on 29 May 1999,[193] Rugova accompanied by Fehmi Agani, Bukoshi, and Veton Surroi, accused KLA of being a left-wing ideology bearer, and some of its leaders as being "nostalgic to known communist figures, such as Enver Hoxha",[194] referring to the People's Movement of Kosovo (LPK) nucleus of KLA,[195] an old underground rival with strong left-wing orientation.[196][197]

Rugova was present at the negotiations held in Rambouillet and supported the Rambouillet Agreement since the first round, but without any influence.[198] Following the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the massive ethnic cleansing of the Albanian population, there was a total Albanian support for the NATO campaign, including the DLK side. Surprisingly, Ibrahim Rugova showed up in Belgrade as a guest of Milosevic. At a joint TV appearance on April 1,[199] ending in Rugova-Milosevic handshake, Rugova asked for a peaceful solution and the bombings to stop.[200][201] In the same conference, Millosevic presented his proposal for Kosovo as part of a three-unit federal Yugoslavian state. Rugova's presence in Belgrade scattered another set of accusations from KLA and its supporters. Besides being 'passive' and 'too peaceful', Rugova and DLK were accused as 'traitors'.[202] Following Rugova's passage to Italy on May 5, Rugova claimed that he had been under duress and any "agreement" with Milosovic had no meaning.[199] The general opinion was the DLK structures and its leader would vanish from the political scene of Kosovo after the Yugoslav withdrawal. Rugova himself stayed for several weeks out of Kosovo, while the prime-minister Bukoshi and other leading membership returned. But since only a fraction of Kosovo Albanians participated actively in the war, the support for DLK increased again as a way of opposing the arrogance of many KLA leaders who openly engaged in controlling the economical and political life within the vacuum created right before the deployment of UNMIK.[203] In the October 2000 local elections, DLK was confirmed as the leading political party.[204]

The feud between KLA and DLK continued in the post-war Kosovo. Many political activists of DLK were assassinated with the perpetrators not being found, including Xhemajl Mustafa, Rugova's most trusted aide.[204]


Civilian losses

In June 2000, the Red Cross reported that 3,368 civilians (mainly Kosovar Albanians, but with several hundred Serbs, and Roma) were still missing, nearly one year after the conflict, most of whom it concluded had to be 'presumed dead'.[205]

A study by researchers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia published in 2000 in medical journal the Lancet estimated that "12,000 deaths in the total population" could be attributed to war.[206] This number was achieved by surveying 1,197 households from February 1998 through June 1999. 67 out of the 105 deaths reported in the sample population were attributed to war-related trauma, which extrapolates to be 12,000 deaths if the same war-related mortality rate is applied to Kosovo's total population. The highest mortality rates were in men between 15 and 49 (5,421 victims of war) as well as for men over 50 (5,176 victims). For persons younger than 15, the estimates were 160 victims for males and 200 for females.[citation needed] For women between 15–49 the estimate is that there were 510 victims; older than 50 years the estimate is 541 victims. The authors stated that it was not "possible to differentiate completely between civilian and military casualties".

In the 2008 joint study by the Humanitarian Law Centre (an NGO from Serbia and Kosovo), The International Commission on Missing Person, and the Missing Person Commission of Serbia made a name-by-name list of war and post-war victims. According to the Kosovo Memory Book, 13,421 people were killed in Kosovo during the conflict, from 1 January 1998 up until December 2000. Of that sum, 10,533 were Albanians, 2,238 were Serbs, 126 Roma, 100 Bosniaks and others.[207] In August 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that between 1998 and 1999, more than 6,000 people had gone missing in Kosovo, and that 1,658 remained missing, with neither the person nor the body having, at that time, been found.[208]

Civilians killed by NATO airstrikes

Railway bridge and monument to civilian victims of NATO airstrike in 1999. on passenger train. 12 to 16 civilian passengers died in this airstrike.

Yugoslavia claimed that NATO attacks caused between 1,200 and 5,700 civilian casualties. NATO's Secretary General, Lord Robertson, wrote after the war that "the actual toll in human lives will never be precisely known" but he then offered the figures found in a report by Human Rights Watch as a reasonable estimate. This report counted between 488 and 527 civilian deaths (90 to 150 of them killed from cluster bomb use) in 90 separate incidents, the worst of which were the 87 Albanian refugees who perished at the hands of NATO bombs, near Koriša.[209] Attacks in Kosovo overall were more deadly due to the confused situation with many refugee movements—the one-third of the incidents there account for more than half of the deaths.[210]

Civilians killed by Yugoslav forces

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers investigate an alleged mass grave, alongside US Marines

Various estimates of the number of killings attributed to Yugoslav forces have been announced through the years. An estimated 800,000 Kosovo Albanians fled and an estimated 7,000 to 9,000 were killed, according to The New York Times.[211] The estimate of 10,000 deaths is used by the United States Department of State, which cited human rights abuses as its main justification for attacking Yugoslavia.[212]

Statistical experts working on behalf of the ICTY prosecution estimate that the total number of dead is about 10,000.[213] Eric Fruits, a professor at Portland State University, argued that the experts' analyses were based on fundamentally flawed data and that none of its conclusions are supported by any valid statistical analysis or tests.[214]

In August 2000, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) announced that it had exhumed 2,788 bodies in Kosovo, but declined to say how many were thought to be victims of war crimes.[215] Earlier however, KFOR sources told Agence France Presse that of the 2,150 bodies that had been discovered up until July 1999, about 850 were thought to be victims of war crimes.[216][page needed][dead link]

Known mass graves:

  • In 2001, 800 still unidentified bodies were found in pits on a police training ground just outside Belgrade and in eastern Serbia.
  • At least 700 bodies were uncovered in a mass grave located within a special anti-terrorist police unit's compound in the Belgrade suburb of Batajnica.
  • 77 bodies were found in the eastern Serbian town of Petrovo Selo.
  • 50 bodies were uncovered near the western Serbian town of Peručac.[217]

NATO losses

A downed F-16C pilot's flight equipment and part of the F-117A shot down over Serbia in 1999 on show at a Belgrade museum.

Military casualties on the NATO side were light. According to official reports, the alliance suffered no fatalities as a direct result of combat operations. However, in the early hours of May 5, an American military AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed not far from the border between Serbia and Albania.[218]

Another American AH-64 helicopter crashed about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Tirana, Albania's capital, very close to the Albanian/Kosovo border.[219] According to CNN, the crash happened 45 miles (72 km) northeast of Tirana.[220] The two American pilots of the helicopter, Army Chief Warrant Officers David Gibbs and Kevin L. Reichert, died in that crash. They were the only NATO fatalities during the war, according to NATO official statements.

There were other casualties after the war, mostly due to land mines. During the war, the alliance reported the loss of the first US stealth plane (an F-117 Nighthawk) ever shot down by enemy fire.[221] Furthermore, an F-16 fighter was lost near Šabac and 32 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from different nations were lost.[222] The wreckages of downed UAVs were shown on Serbian television during the war. Some American sources claim a second F-117A was also heavily damaged, and although it made it back to its base, it never flew again.[223][224] A-10 Thunderbolts have been reported as losses, with two shot down[27] and another two damaged.[27] Three American soldiers riding a Humvee in a routine patrol were captured by Yugoslav Special Forces across the Macedonian border.[24][225]

Yugoslav military losses

Wreckage of Yugoslav MiG-29 jet fighter shot down on March 27, 1999, outside the town of Ugljevik, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Destroyed tank near Prizren

At first, NATO claimed to have killed 10,000 Yugoslav troops, while Yugoslavia claimed only 500; the NATO investigative teams later corrected it to a few hundred Yugoslav troops killed by air strikes.[226] In 2001, the Yugoslav authorities claimed 462 soldiers were killed and 299 wounded by NATO airstrikes.[227] Later, in 2013, Serbia claimed that 1,008 Yugoslav soldiers and policemen had been killed by NATO bombing.[33] NATO initially[when?] claimed that 5,000 Yugoslav servicemen had been killed and 10,000 had been wounded during the NATO air campaign.[34][35] NATO has since[when?] revised this estimate to 1,200 Yugoslav soldiers and policemen killed.[36]

Of military equipment, NATO destroyed around 50 Yugoslav aircraft including 6 MiG-29s destroyed in air-to-air combat. A number of G-4 Super Galebs were destroyed in their hardened aircraft shelter by bunker-busting bombs which started a fire which spread quickly because the shelter doors were not closed. At the end of war, NATO officially claimed that they had destroyed 93 Yugoslav tanks. Yugoslavia admitted a total of 3 destroyed tanks. The latter figure was verified by European inspectors when Yugoslavia rejoined the Dayton accords, by noting the difference between the number of tanks then and at the last inspection in 1995.[citation needed] NATO claimed that the Yugoslav army lost 93 tanks (M-84's and T-55's), 132 APCs, and 52 artillery pieces.[228] Newsweek, the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S, gained access to a suppressed US Air Force report that claimed the real numbers were "3 tanks, not 120; 18 armored personnel carriers, not 220; 20 artillery pieces, not 450".[228][229] Another US Air Force report gives a figure of 14 tanks destroyed.[37] Most of the targets hit in Kosovo were decoys, such as tanks made out of plastic sheets with telegraph poles for gun barrels, or old World War II–era tanks which were not functional. Anti-aircraft defences were preserved by the simple expedient of not turning them on, preventing NATO aircraft from detecting them, but forcing them to keep above a ceiling of 15,000 feet (5,000 m), making accurate bombing much more difficult. Towards the end of the war, it was claimed that carpet bombing by B-52 aircraft had caused huge casualties among Yugoslav troops stationed along the Kosovo–Albania border. Careful searching by NATO investigators found no evidence of any such large-scale casualties.

However, the most significant loss for the Yugoslav Army was the damaged and destroyed infrastructure. Almost all military air bases and airfields (Batajnica, Lađevci, Slatina, Golubovci and Đakovica) and other military buildings and facilities were badly damaged or destroyed. Unlike the units and their equipment, military buildings couldn't be camouflaged. thus, defence industry and military technical overhaul facilities were also seriously damaged (Utva, Zastava Arms factory, Moma Stanojlović air force overhaul center, technical overhaul centers in Čačak and Kragujevac). Moreover, in an effort to weaken the Yugoslav Army, NATO targeted several important civilian facilities (the Pančevo oil refinery,[230] Novi Sad oil refinery, bridges, TV antennas, railroads, etc.)

KLA losses

Around 1,500 Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers were killed, according to KLA's own estimates.[21] HLC registered 2,057 KLA insurgents killed in its comprehensive database.[22]


Refugee camp in Fier, Albania

The Yugoslav and Serb forces caused the displacement of between 1.2 million[70] to 1.45 million Kosovo Albanians.[71] After the end of the war in June 1999, numerous Albanian refugees started returning home from neighboring countries. By November 1999, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 848,100 out of 1,108,913 had returned.[231]

According to the 1991 Yugoslavia Census, of the nearly 2 million population of Kosovo in 1991, 194,190 were Serbs, 45,745 were Romani and 20,356 were Montenegrins.[232] According to the Human Rights Watch, 200,000 Serbs and thousands of Roma fled from Kosovo during and after the war.[233] A 2001 Human Rights Watch's report suggested that the removal of ethnic minorities in Kosovo was done in order to better justify an independent state, and there were over 1000 reports of beatings and torturing of minorities in Kosovo by ethnic Albanians in 2000 after the war finished.[234] Homes of minorities were burned and Orthodox churches and monasteries were destroyed in the immediate aftermath of KFOR’s arrival in Kosovo.[234] Attackers combined this destruction with killings, harassment and intimidation designed to force people from their homes and communities.[234] The Yugoslav Red Cross had also registered 247,391 mostly Serbian refugees by November[when?]. More than 164,000 Serbs left Kosovo during the seven weeks which followed Yugoslav and Serb forces' withdrawal from, and the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) entering Kosovo.[235]

Further inter-ethnic violence took place in 2000, and 2004.

War crimes

By FR Yugoslav and Serb forces

For the government of Serbia, cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is "still regarded as a distressing obligation, the necessary price for joining the European Union".[236] Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević, along with Milan Milutinović, Nikola Šainović, Dragoljub Ojdanić and Vlajko Stojiljković were charged by the ICTY with crimes against humanity including murder, forcible transfer, deportation, and "persecution on political, racial or religious grounds". In 2001, then-President Vojislav Koštunica "fought tooth and nail" against attempts to put Milošević before an international court but was unable to prevent this happening after further atrocities were revealed.[237] In October 2003, there were more indictments against former armed forces chief of staff Nebojša Pavković, former army corps commander Vladimir Lazarević, former police official Vlastimir Đorđević, and Sreten Lukić. All were indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. Later, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) legally found that FRY and Serbian forces "use[d] violence and terror to force a significant number of Kosovo Albanians from their homes and across the borders, in order for the state authorities to maintain control over Kosovo ... This campaign was conducted by army and Interior Ministry police forces (MUP) under the control of FRY and Serbian authorities, who were responsible for mass expulsions of Kosovo Albanian civilians from their homes, as well as incidents of killings, sexual assault, and the intentional destruction of mosques."[238] Religious objects were also damaged or destroyed. Of the 498 mosques in Kosovo that were in active use, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) documented that 225 mosques sustained damage or destruction by the Yugoslav Serb army.[239] In all, eighteen months of the Yugoslav Serb counterinsurgency campaign between 1998-1999 within Kosovo resulted in 225 or a third out of a total of 600 mosques being damaged, vandalised, or destroyed.[240][241] During the war, Islamic architectural heritage posed for Yugoslav Serb paramilitary and military forces as Albanian patrimony with destruction of non-Serbian architectural heritage being a methodical and planned component of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.[241][242]

By Kosovo Albanian forces

Monument to Serbian victims of Kosovo War in Mitrovica

The ICTY also leveled indictments against KLA members Fatmir Limaj, Haradin Bala, Isak Musliu, and Agim Murtezi for crimes against humanity. They were arrested on February 17 and 18, 2003. Charges were soon dropped against Agim Murtezi as a case of mistaken identity and Fatmir Limaj was acquitted of all charges on November 30, 2005 and released. The charges were in relation to the prison camp run by the defendants at Lapušnik between May and July 1998.

In 2008, Carla Del Ponte published a book in which she alleged that, after the end of the war in 1999, Kosovo Albanians were smuggling organs of between 100 and 300 Serbs and other minorities from the province to Albania.[243]

In March 2005, a U.N. tribunal indicted Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj for war crimes against the Serbs. On March 8, he tendered his resignation. Haradinaj, an ethnic Albanian, was a former commander who led units of the Kosovo Liberation Army and was appointed Prime Minister after winning an election of 72 votes to three in the Kosovo's Parliament in December 2004. Haradinaj was acquitted on all counts along with fellow KLA veterans Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj. The Office of the Prosecutor appealed their acquittals, resulting in the ICTY ordering a partial retrial. However, on 29 November 2012 all three were acquitted for second time on all charges.[244] According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), "800 non-Albanian civilians were kidnapped and murdered from 1998 to 1999". After the war, "479 people have gone missing ... most of them Serbs".[245]

In April 2014, the Assembly of Kosovo considered and approved the establishment of a special court to try cases involving crimes and other serious abuses committed in 1999-2000 by members of the KLA.[246] There have been many reports of abuses and war crimes committed by the KLA during and after the conflict, such as massacres of civilians, prison camps, and destruction of medieval churches and monuments.[247]

By NATO forces

The Yugoslav government and a number of international pressure groups (e.g., Amnesty International) claimed that NATO had carried out war crimes during the conflict, notably the bombing of the Serbian TV headquarters in Belgrade on April 23, 1999, where 16 people were killed and 16 more were injured. Sian Jones of Amnesty stated, "The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime".[248] However, a later report conducted by the ICTY entitled Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia concluded that, "Insofar as the attack actually was aimed at disrupting the communications network, it was legally acceptable" and that, "NATO's targeting of the RTS building for propaganda purposes was an incidental (albeit complementary) aim of its primary goal of disabling the Serbian military command and control system and to destroy the nerve system and apparatus that keeps Milosević in power."[142] In regards to civilian casualties, it further stated that though they were, "unfortunately high, they do not appear to be clearly disproportionate."[142]

International reaction to NATO intervention


  • EgyptEgypt supported NATO intervention in Kosovo and withdrew its ambassador from Belgrade.[249]
  • Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – Libyan Jamahiriya leader, Muammar Gaddafi opposed the campaign and called on world leaders to support Yugoslavia's 'legitimate right to defend its freedoms and territorial integrity against a possible aggression.'[250]


  • CambodiaCambodia was against the campaign.[251]
  • ChinaChina deeply condemned the bombing, saying it was an act of aggression against the Yugoslav people, especially when NATO bombed its embassy in Belgrade on May 7, 1999, riots and mass demonstrations against the governments of the United States and Great Britain were reported against both the attack and the operation overall.[252] Jiang Zemin, the President of the country at the time, called 'once more' for an immediate halt to the airstrikes and demanded peaceful negotiations.[250]
  • IndiaIndia condemned the bombing.[251] The Indian foreign ministry also stated that it 'urged all military actions to be brought to a halt' and that 'FR Yugoslavia be enabled to resolve its internal issues internally.'[250]
  • IndonesiaIndonesia was against the campaign.[251]
  • IsraelIsrael did not support the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.[253] Ariel Sharon criticised NATO's bombing as an act of "brutal interventionism".[254] It was suggested that Sharon may have supported the Yugoslav position because of the Serbian population's history of saving Jews during the Holocaust.[255]
  • JordanJordan supported NATO intervention in Kosovo and withdrew its ambassador from Belgrade.[249]
  • JapanJapan's PM Keizō Obuchi advocated the bombing, stating that Yugoslavia had an 'uncompromising attitude.'[251] Moreover, Japan's foreign minister Masahiko Kōmura said that, 'Japan understands NATO's use of force as measures that had to be taken to prevent humanitarian catastrophe.'[250]
  • MalaysiaMalaysia supported the bombing, stating that it 'was necessary to prevent genocide in Kosovo.'[251]
  • PakistanPakistan's government was concerned about developing situations in Kosovo and called for UN intervention.[251]
  • United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates supported NATO intervention in Kosovo.[256] The UAE population contributed large amounts of money toward humanitarian aid, set up and ran a highly efficient refugee camp while building an airstrip for incoming relief supplies at Kukës in Northern Albania.[256]
  • VietnamVietnam was against the bombing campaign.[251]


  • AlbaniaAlbania strongly supported the bombing campaign. This resulted in the breaking of diplomatic ties between Albania and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who accused the Albanian government of harbouring KLA insurgents and supplying them with weapons.[citation needed]
  • Turkey – The Turkish population, as a result of historical, cultural, and religious ties to the Balkans felt a responsibility to assist Kosovo Albanians by supporting their government's pro-NATO and anti-Serb position.[257] Turkey, a NATO member, supported and was involved in the bombing campaign though it expressed hesitation about a ground offensive.[257] The Turkish government stressed that NATO's involvement was not about undermining Yugoslav territorial integrity, but about reversing the genocidal policies of the Milošević government.[257]
  • France – In France, a combatant, the bulk of the population supported the action but factions on the far left and far right opposed it.[258] French officials however felt aggrieved their traditional ally Serbia was subjected to military action by NATO.[182]
  • Federal Republic of YugoslaviaSlobodan Milošević, the president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia called the bombings, an 'unlawful act of terrorism' and the 'key to colonize Yugoslavia'. The Yugoslav population also strongly opposed the bombing and showed defiance with cultural-related themes. Milošević also stated that, 'the only correct decision that could have been made was the one to reject foreign troops on our territory.'[259] The Yugoslavs who opposed Milošević also opposed the bombing, saying that it 'supports Milošević rather than attacking him.'[citation needed]
  • GreeceGreece took no active part in the NATO campaign and 96% of the Greek population was opposed to the NATO bombings.[260][182]
  • Germany - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder newly elected government supported the NATO campaign, however German public opinion was not prepared for a prolonged campaign.[182]
  • Italy – The bombing was met with mixed reactions in Italy. Following former Prime Minister Romano Prodi's decision of authorising the use of Italian airbases and military infrastructures to the coalition forces, Massimo D'Alema's centre-left government authorised the country's participation in the air campaign.[261] The bombing was also supported by Silvio Berlusconi and the centre-right opposition.[262] Domestic opposition to the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia was strong.[182]
  • RussiaRussia strongly condemned the campaign. The president Boris Yeltsin stated that, 'Russia is deeply upset by NATO's military action against sovereign Yugoslavia, which is nothing more than open aggression.'[250] They also condemned NATO at the United Nations saying that NATO air strikes on Serbia were 'an illegal action.'[263] Some Russians volunteered to go to Kosovo, not only to fight the KLA, but also to oppose NATO.[264]
  • United Kingdom – As a contributor to the bombing, the United Kingdom strongly supported the bombing campaign, as did a majority of the British population.[265]
  • Poland – The Polish government sanctioned NATO's activities however, Poland did not participate in the operation[266] There were demonstrations in Warsaw against the bombing.[267]
  • Bulgaria – Bulgaria allowed its airspace to be used by NATO aircraft for attacks.[268] Despite Bulgaria's ambitions of joining both NATO and the European Union, the leftist opposition organised street protests in Sofia over the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the public was reportedly deeply divided because of sympathy for their fellow Slavs and Christian Orthodox Serb neighbours but also a desire to join the European Union and NATO.[269][unreliable source?] Several NATO missiles and aircraft strayed off course into Bulgaria.[270]


  • AustraliaAustralia supported the campaign. Prime Minister John Howard stated that, "history has told us that if you sit by and do nothing, you pay a much greater price later on."[271]

United Nations

  • United Nations – The United Nations had mixed reactions to the bombing, it was carried out without its authorisation,[272] however, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General said, "It is indeed tragic that diplomacy has failed, but there are times when the use of force is legitimate in the pursuit of peace."[250]

Military and political consequences

Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army turn over their weapons to U.S. Marines

The Kosovo war had a number of important consequences in terms of the military and political outcome. The status of Kosovo remains unresolved; international negotiations began in 2006 to determine Kosovo's level of autonomy as envisaged under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, but efforts failed. The province is administered by the United Nations despite its unilateral declaration of independence on February 17, 2008.

Seized uniform and equipment of U.S. soldiers 1999 in Kosovo War

The UN-backed talks, led by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, had begun in February 2006. Whilst progress was made on technical matters, both parties remained diametrically opposed on the question of status itself.[273] In February 2007, Ahtisaari delivered a draft status settlement proposal to leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the basis for a draft UN Security Council Resolution which proposes "supervised independence" for the province, which is in contrary to UN Security Council Resolution 1244. By July 2007, the draft resolution, which was backed by the United States, United Kingdom, and other European members of the Security Council, had been rewritten four times to try to accommodate Russian concerns that such a resolution would undermine the principle of state sovereignty.[274] Russia, which holds a veto in the Security Council as one of five permanent members, stated that it would not support any resolution which is not acceptable to both Belgrade and Priština.[275]

The campaign exposed significant weaknesses in the U.S. arsenal, which were later addressed for the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. Apache attack helicopters and AC-130 Spectre gunships were brought up to the front lines but were never used after two Apaches crashed during training in the Albanian mountains. Stocks of many precision missiles were reduced to critically low levels. For combat aircraft, continuous operations resulted in skipped maintenance schedules, and many aircraft were withdrawn from service awaiting spare parts and service.[276] Also, many of the precision-guided weapons proved unable to cope with Balkan weather, as the clouds blocked the laser guidance beams. This was resolved by retrofitting bombs with Global Positioning System satellite guidance devices that are immune to bad weather. Although pilotless surveillance aircraft were extensively used, often attack aircraft could not be brought to the scene quickly enough to hit targets of opportunity. This led missiles being fitted to Predator drones in Afghanistan, reducing the "sensor to shooter" time to virtually zero.

Kosovo also showed that some low-tech tactics could reduce the impact of a high-tech force such as NATO; the Milošević government coöperated with Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, passing on many of the lessons learned.[277] The Yugoslav army had long expected to need to resist a much stronger enemy, either Soviet or NATO, during the Cold War and had developed effective tactics of deception and concealment in response. These would have been unlikely to have resisted a full-scale invasion for long, but were probably used to mislead overflying aircraft and satellites. Among the tactics used were:

  • U.S. stealth aircraft were tracked with radars operating on long wavelengths. If stealth jets got wet or opened their bomb bay doors, they would become visible on the radar screens. An F-117 Nighthawk downed by a missile was possibly spotted in this way.[278]
  • Dummy targets such as fake bridges, airfields and decoy planes and tanks were used extensively. Tanks were made using old tires, plastic sheeting and logs, and sand cans and fuel set alight to mimic heat emissions. They fooled NATO pilots into bombing hundreds of such decoys, though General Clark's survey found that in Operation: Allied Force, NATO airmen hit just 25 decoys—an insignificant percentage of the 974 validated hits.[279] However, NATO sources claim that this was due to operating procedures, which oblige troops, in this case aircraft, to engage any and all targets, however unlikely they may be. The targets needed only to look real to be shot at, if detected, of course. NATO claimed that Yugoslav air force had been devastated. "Official data show that the Yugoslav army in Kosovo lost 26 percent of its tanks, 34 percent of its APCs, and 47 percent of the artillery to the air campaign."[279]

Military decorations

As a result of the Kosovo War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation created a second NATO medal, the NATO Medal for Kosovo Service, an international military decoration. Shortly thereafter, NATO created the Non-Article 5 Medal for Balkans service to combine both Yugoslavian and Kosovo operations into one service medal.[280]

Due to the involvement of the United States armed forces, a separate U.S. military decoration, known as the Kosovo Campaign Medal, was established by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

The Kosovo Campaign Medal (KCM) is a military award of the United States Armed Forces established by Executive Order 13154 of President Bill Clinton on May 3, 2000. The medal recognises military service performed in Kosovo from March 24, 1999 through December 31, 2013.

Weaponry and vehicles used

A variety of weapons were used by the Yugoslav security forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army, NATO only operated aircraft and naval units during the conflict.

Yugoslav security forces

The weapons used by Yugoslav government were mostly Yugoslav made, while almost all of their AA units were Soviet made.

Kosovo Liberation Army

The weapons used by the Kosovo Liberation Army were mostly Soviet Kalashnikovs and Chinese derivatives of the AK-47 and some Western weaponry.


See also



  1. [6][7][8][9][10]
  2. Serbia claims that 1,008 Yugoslav soldiers and policemen were killed by NATO bombing.[33] NATO initially claimed that 5,000 Yugoslav servicemen had been killed and 10,000 had been wounded during the NATO air campaign.[34][35] NATO has since revised this estimation to 1,200 Yugoslav soldiers and policemen killed.[36]


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  6. "Abuses against Serbs and Roma in the new Kosovo". Human Rights Watch. August 1999.
  7. "After Yugoslavia: Identities and Politics Within the Successor States". 2012. p. 30.
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  31. Alleged connections between top Kosovo politicians and assassin investigated | World news | The Guardian
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  172. Mellon, James G. (Winter 2001). "Review Essays: Ethics, Diplomacy and Intervention in Kosovo". Journal of Conflict Studies. XXI (2).
  173. Hitchens, Christopher (Aug 18, 2008). "South Ossetia Isn't Kosovo". Slate.
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  175. Tran, Mark (1 April 2008). "'The international community makes a terrible mess wherever it goes'". The Guardian. London.
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  177. Phyllis Schlafly (1999-10-19). "Numbers Game in Kosovo". Washington Times.
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  182. 182.0 182.1 182.2 182.3 182.4 182.5 Norris, John (2005). Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 9. ISBN 9780275987534.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  183. Susan Sontag (2 May 1999). "Why Are We in Kosovo?". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  184. Robert Elsie (15 November 2010). Historical Dictionary of Kosovo. Scarecrow Press. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-8108-7483-1. ...Ahmet Krasniqi, minister of defence of the Kosovar government in exile...
  185. Rexhep Qosja (1 January 1999). Paqja e përgjakshme: konferenca Ndërkombëtare për Kosovën, Rambuje 6-23. 2. 1999, Paris 14-19. 3. 1999. Botimet Toena. p. 195. ISBN 978-99927-1-217-7. e në anën tjetër propaganda e tmerrshme e disa partive, sidomos e udhëheqjeve të tyre, krejt e organizuar prej udhëheqjes së LDK-së! Jo vetëm se nuk jepeshin para për luftë, por bëheshin përpjekje, të hapta e të fshehta, për rrënimin e Ushtrisë Çlirimtare të Kosovës.
  186. Thomas M. Leonard (2006). Encyclopedia of the Developing World. Taylor & Francis. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-415-97662-6. ...and at one point Rugova claimed that it was set up by Serbia as an excuse to invade.
  187. 187.0 187.1 David L. Phillips; Nicholas Burns (20 July 2012). Liberating Kosovo: Coercive Diplomacy and U. S. Intervention. MIT Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-262-30512-9. He insisted that the KLA was "a creation of the Serb security forces". He was convinced that "the whole thing was a hoax orchestrated by Serb police to discredit the LDK"... Initial KLA supporters were disgruntled members of the LDK...Jakup Krasniqi, the KLA spokesman explains: "Everyone originally supported the LDK. I was an LDK member".
  188. Robert J. Art; Patrick M. Cronin (2003). The United States and Coercive Diplomacy. US Institute of Peace Press. pp. 76–. ISBN 978-1-929223-45-9. By March 1998 "dissatisfaction" with and "antagonism" toward Rugova were evident in the actions of some prominent Kosovar Albanian political figures and in mass street demonstrations, leading one Albanian commentator for the local Helsinki Committee to conclude that "the bellogenrent option is gaining more followers, at the expense of the peaceful one".
  189. Mike Karadjis (2000). Bosnia, Kosova & the West. Resistance Books. p. 178. ISBN 978-1-876646-05-9. ...the fact that so much of Rugova's LDK and members of the non-violent movement, long admired for their "moderation", had joined KLA...
  190. 190.0 190.1 190.2 James Pettifer; Miranda Vickers (2007). The Albanian Question: Reshaping the Balkans. I.B.Tauris. pp. 166–168. ISBN 978-1-86064-974-5. Although never numbering more than a few hundred soldiers... In contrast, as far as the KLA were concerned, FARK had a dubious commitment to fighting the Serbs, and was content to settle for greater autonomy rather than full independence for Kosova... Berisha seems, unwisely, to have relied on support from FARK for manpower in his attempt to overthrow the government. ...In a further dramatic development on the same day, the chief commander of FARK, Ahmet Krasniqi, was shot and killed by two masked gunmen in Tirana...Although no person has been arrested so far for the killing of Krasniqi, the incident served to focus attention on the activities of Kosovars involved in the war in Kosova who were coordinating their activities increasingly from Tirana. ...there were numerous theories as to who killed Krasniqi. Democrats were insistent that the FARK commander, who was residing temporarily in Tirana, was assassinated by the Albanian intelligence service, the SHIK...
  191. Florian Bieber; Zidas Daskalovski (2 August 2004). Understanding the War in Kosovo. Routledge. pp. 291–. ISBN 978-1-135-76155-4. As shown earlier, the relations between Rugova and the Socialist-led government had deteriorated due to the foreign policy pursued by the Socialists but also by the latter's support of Hashim Thaci, former political leader of KLA...
  192. Mikael Eriksson; Roland Kostić (15 February 2013). Mediation and Liberal Peacebuilding: Peace from the Ashes of War?. Routledge. pp. 43–. ISBN 978-1-136-18916-6. However, as the KLA received eventually greater support, locally and internationally, parts of the FARK were incorporated under the KLA umbrella.
  193. Timothy W. Crawford (2003). Pivotal Deterrence: Third-party Statecraft and the Pursuit of Peace. Cornell University Press. pp. 179–. ISBN 0-8014-4097-1. On 29 May Rugova met with Clinton in Washington...
  194. Dilaver Goxhaj (2016-01-23), Jo shtatore ne Tirane atij qe nuk luftoi per clirimin e Kosoves [Not a monument in Tirana for him who did not fight for Kosovo liberation] (in Albanian), AAV, Dihet gjithashtu që Rugova shkoi deri tek Presidenti Bill Klinton, më 28 maj 1998, i shoqëruar prej Fehmi Aganit, Bujar Bukoshit dhe Veton Surroi, për t’i kundërvënë UÇK-së edhe Amerikën, duke i thënë: “Grupet e armatosura në Kosovë, përgjithësishtë kanë pikpamje të majta, pra janë nga ata që kanë patur ide të majta, drejtohen nga njerëz që edhe sot e kësaj dite kanë nostalgji për ish figura të njohura komuniste, si për shëmbëll për Enver Hoxhën,"CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  195. Liebknecht, Rosa (10 April 1992), Inside the KLA, International Viewpoint, In particular, it appears to have connections with the National Movement of Kosova, which was formed in 1982.
  196. Lyubov Grigorova Mincheva; Ted Robert Gurr (3 January 2013). Crime-Terror Alliances and the State: Ethnonationalist and Islamist Challenges to Regional Security. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-135-13210-1. The political entity that helped fund the KLA was People's Movement of Kosovo (LPK), a rival underground movement to Ibrahim Rugova's LDK.
  197. Lorimer, Doug (June 14, 1999), NATO's Balkan War and the Kosova Liberation Struggle, DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST PERSPECTIVE - The Activist - Volume 9, In an interview in April this year with a left-wing British magazine, Pleurat Sejdiiu, the diplomatic representative of the KLA in London, explained that the KLA had been formed in 1993 as the military wing of the Hoxhaite People's Movement of Kosova, the LPK. Sejdiiu, a member of the LPK since 1985, said that this decision had been made because of the LPK's frustration with the ineffectiveness of the passive civil disobedience line of the dominant Kosovar party, Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova, the LDK. Sejdiiu said: With the creation of the KLA, the LDK, especially Rugova, started accusing the KLA of being a bunch of people linked to the Serbian state security. Roguva was saying that Serbia had an interest in destabilising us all. That was pure demagoguery because Serbia had it in hand, they didn't need any destabilisation and they controlled everything. So we have actually to fight on two fronts. As well as the military campaign we had to fight politically against the LDK as the main force who has been opposed to any other methods than peaceful means, while all the time only sitting in their offices, having meetings and press conferences. They have even been against the student organisation having mass demonstrations. But oppression in Kosova went on all the time, growing day by day and the ranks of the KLA began to grow from those people who actually started with the idea that the only way to get our independence was armed struggle.
  198. Chih-Hann Chang (28 March 2013). Ethical Foreign Policy?: US Humanitarian Interventions. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 136–. ISBN 978-1-4094-8943-6. Thaci was the main opponent of signing the agreement, while Rugova had minimal influence at the talks...When both parties returned to Paris in mid-March, the Kosovar Albanian delegation signed the accord...
  199. 199.0 199.1 Ian Jeffries (27 August 2003). The Former Yugoslavia at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to the Economies in Transition. Routledge. pp. 474–. ISBN 978-1-134-46050-2. Also on 1 April 1999, the Yugoslav state television showed a meeting between Milosevic and Rugova. On 5 May Ibrahim Rugova and his family flew to Rome... says he was acting under duress when he backed Slobodan Milošević's call for an end to NATO's strikes...Mr Rugova ... [said] that the agreement had no meaning...
  200. Heike Krieger (12 July 2001). The Kosovo Conflict and International Law: An Analytical Documentation 1974-1999. Cambridge University Press. pp. 485–. ISBN 978-0-521-80071-6. ...the appeal for stopping the NATO strikes has come from Ibrahim Rugova, the acknowledged leader of the Kosovo Albanians.
  201. Paulin Kola (2003). The search for Greater Albania. Hurst & Co. p. 360. ISBN 9781850656647. OCLC 52978026. To complicate matters further for NATO, Rugova's first pronouncements confirmed fears that the Albanian leader was sticking to a deal with Milosevic.
  202. Michael Radu. Dilemmas of Democracy and Dictatorship: Place, Time and Ideology in Global Perspective. Transaction Publishers. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-4128-2171-1. ...although Rugova's recent meeting with Milosevic may well have been under duress, the KLA declared Rugova a "traitor"...
  203. Kosova: Zgjedhje Historike [Kosovo: Historic Elections] (PDF) (in Albanian), International Crisis Group, 2001-11-21, p. 9, Shumica menduan se partia dhe udhëheqësi i saj do të zhdukeshin politikisht pas fushatës së bombardimeve të NATO-s në 1999. Gjatë bombardimeve, Rugova u filmua në një takim me ish-presidentin jugosllav Sllobodan Millosheviç, dhe u akuzua nga disa si tepër paqësor. Pas bombardimeve UÇK-ja veproi me shpejtësi për të plotësuar boshllëkun e lënë nga ikja e forcave serbe, ndërsa Rugova edhe për disa javë qëndroi jashtë vendit. Megjithatë, vetëm një pakicë e shqiptarëve të Kosovës morën pjesë aktive në UÇK. Besnikëria ndaj LDK-së dhe Rugovës u rikthye ballë zmbrapsjes ndaj arrogancës së UÇK-së shfaqur në dëshirën për të kontrolluar ekonominë dhe politikën në kaosin para krijimit të UNMIK-ut. Pozicioni mbizotërues i LDK-së në zgjedhjet e tetorit 2000, e risolli atë si forcën mbizotëruese politike të Kosovës.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
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  210. "Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign". Human Rights Watch. February 2000.
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  218. Officially confirmed/documented NATO helicopter losses
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  221. Benjamin S. Lambeth (2006-06-03). "Kosovo and the Continuing SEAD Challenge". Aerospace Power Journal. United States Air Force. Retrieved October 30, 2006. On the fourth night of air operations, an apparent barrage of SA-3s downed an F-117 at approximately 2045 over hilly terrain near Budanovci, about 28 miles northwest of Belgrade- marking the first combat loss ever of a stealth aircraft.
  222. Muzej jugoslovenskog ratnog vazduhoplovstva
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  224. "Damage said attributed to full moon." Nl.newsbank.com, 6 May 1999
  225. 'We're Trapped . . . We Can't Get Out'. The Washington Post, 2 April 2014
  226. Kenneth Pollack (25 March 2003). The Threatening Storm: What Every American Needs to Know Before an Invasion in Iraq. Random House Publishing Group. pp. 304–. ISBN 978-1-58836-341-1.
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  231. Mark B Jardine (2016). The G and T Defense: George W Bush and Tony Blair: Heroes, Not Villains. Lulu.com. p. 8. ISBN 9781483458571.
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  240. Herscher & Riedlmayer 2000, pp. 87. "The attack on Landovica’s mosque was reprised throughout Kosovo during the eighteen months of the Serb counterinsurgency campaign. Approximately 225 of Kosovo’s 600 mosques were vandalized, damaged, or destroyed during that campaign."
  241. 241.0 241.1 Bevan, Robert (2007). The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War. Reaktion books. p. 85. ISBN 9781861896384.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) "Although the priceless Serbian Orthodox heritage of Kosovo was damaged during the Kosovo conflict and after (and Serbia itself did indeed lose some buildings to NATO raids), it is the Muslim heritage, as in Bosnia, that was devastated by the war. A third of Kosovo’s historic mosques were destroyed or damaged, as were 90 per cent of the traditional kulla (stone tower-houses), as part of the Serbian campaign of ethnic cleansing that followed the pattern set in Bosnia, and made worse by the efficiency lessons learned there. The destruction of Kosovo's non-Serb architectural heritage was a planned and methodical element of ethnic cleansing."
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External links


Further reading



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