Insurgency in Kosovo (1995–98)
|Insurgency in Kosovo|
|Part of Yugoslav Wars, the prelude of the Kosovo War|
Kosovo and Metohija (1999)
|Commanders and leaders|
Zahir Pajaziti †
|Casualties and losses|
|Moderate||10 policemen killed|
|24 civilians killed|
The Insurgency in Kosovo began in 1995, following the Dayton Agreement. In 1996, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began attacks, which targeted ethnic Serb villages and Serbian governmental buildings and police stations. The insurgency led to the Kosovo War in February 1998.
The Albanian-Serbian conflict has its roots in the expulsion of the Albanians in 1877–1878 from areas that became incorporated into the Principality of Serbia. Since then the two peoples have had problems with each other. The 1950s and 1960s were a period marked by repression and anti Albanian policies in Kosovo under Aleksandar Ranković, a Serbian communist who later fell out and was dismissed by Tito. During this time nationalism for Kosovar Albanians became a conduit to alleviate the conditions of the time. In 1968 Yugoslav Serb officials warned about rising Albanian nationalism and by November unrest and demonstrations by thousands of Albanians followed calling for Kosovo to attain republic status, an independent Albanian language university and some for unification with Albania. Tito rewrote the Yugoslav constitution (1974) and tried to address Albanian complaints by awarding the province of Kosovo autonomy and powers such as a veto in the federal decision making process similar to that of the republics. Kosovo functioned as a de facto republic because Kosovar Albanians attained the ability to pursue near independent foreign relations, trade and cultural links with Albania, an independent Albanian language university and Albanology institute, an Academy of Sciences and Writers association with the ability to fly the Albanian flag.
Military precursors to the KLA began in the late 1980s with armed resistance to Serb police trying to take Albanian activists in custody. Prior to the KLA, its members had been part of organizations such as the National Kosovo Movement and Popular Movement for Kosovo Liberation. The founders of the later KLA were involved in the 1981 protests in Kosovo. Many ethnic Albanian dissidents were arrested or moved to European countries, where they continued subversive activities. Repression of Albanian nationalism and Albanian nationalists by authorities in Belgrade strengthened the independence movement and focused international attention toward the plight of Kosovar Albanians.
From 1991 to 1992, Albanian nationalist Adem Jashari and about 100 other ethnic Albanians wishing to fight for the independence of Kosovo underwent military training in the municipality of Labinot-Mal in Albania. Afterwards, Jashari and other ethnic Albanians committed several acts of sabotage aimed at the Serbian administrative apparatus in Kosovo. Attempting to capture or kill him, Serbian police surrounded Jashari and his older brother, Hamëz, at their home in Prekaz on 30 December 1991. In the ensuing siege, large numbers of Kosovo Albanians flocked to Prekaz, forcing the Serbs to withdraw from the village. While in Albania, Jashari was arrested in 1993 by the government of Sali Berisha and sent to jail in Tirana before being released alongside other Kosovo Albanian militants at the demand of the Albanian Army. Jashari launched several attacks over the next several years, targeting the Yugoslav Army (VJ) and Serbian police in Kosovo. In the spring of 1993, "Homeland Calls" meetings were held in Aarau, Switzerland, organized by Xhavit Halili, Azem Syla, Jashar Salihu and others. KLA strategist Xhavit Halili said that in 1993, the KLA 'considered and then rejected the IRA, PLO and ETA models'. Some journalists claim that a May 1993 attack in Glogovac that left five Serbian policemen dead and two wounded was the first one carried out by the KLA.
By early 1990s there were attacks on police forces and secret-service officials who abused Albanian civilians. A Serbian policeman was killed in 1995, allegedly by the KLA. Since 1995, the KLA sought to destabilize the region, hoping the United States and NATO intervene. Serbian patrols were ambushed and policemen killed. It was only in the next year that the organization of KLA took responsibility for attacks.
In 1996 the British weekly The European carried an article by a French expert stating that "German civil and military intelligence services have been involved in training and equipping the rebels with the aim of cementing German influence in the Balkan area. (...) The birth of the KLA in 1996 coincided with the appointment of Hansjoerg Geiger as the new head of the BND (German secret Service). (...) The BND men were in charge of selecting recruits for the KLA command structure from the 500,000 Kosovars in Albania." Former senior adviser to the German parliament Matthias Küntzel tried to prove later on that German secret diplomacy had been instrumental in helping the KLA since its creation.
KLA representatives met with American, British, and Swiss intelligence agencies in 1996, and possibly "several years earlier" and according to The Sunday Times, "American intelligence agents have admitted they helped to train the Kosovo Liberation Army before NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia". Intelligence agents denied, however, that they were involved in arming the KLA.
In February 1996 the KLA undertook a series of attacks against police stations and Yugoslav government employees, saying that the Yugoslav authorities had killed Albanian civilians as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign. Serbian authorities denounced the KLA as a terrorist organization and increased the number of security forces in the region. This had the counter-productive effect of boosting the credibility of the embryonic KLA among the Kosovo Albanian population. On 22 April 1996, four attacks on Serbian security personnel were carried out almost simultaneously in several parts of Kosovo.
In January 1997, Serbian security forces assassinated KLA commander Zahir Pajaziti and two other leaders in a highway attack between Pristina and Mitrovica, and arrested more than 100 Albanian militants.
Jashari was convicted of terrorism in absentia by a Yugoslav court on 11 July 1997. Human Rights Watch subsequently described the trial, in which fourteen other Kosovo Albanians were also convicted, as "[failing] to conform to international standards."
The Albanian civil war of 1997 enabled the KLA to acquire large amounts of weapons looted from Albanian armories. A 1997 intelligence report stated that the KLA received drug trafficking proceeds, used to purchase arms. The KLA received large funds from Albanian diaspora organizations. There is a possibility that among donators to the KLA were people involved in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, however insufficient evidence exists that the KLA itself was involved in such activities.
James Bissett, Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania, wrote in 2001 that media reports indicate that "as early as 1998, the Central Intelligence Agency assisted by the British Special Air Service were arming and training Kosovo Liberation Army members in Albania to foment armed rebellion in Kosovo" with the hope that "NATO could intervene (...)".
Pursuing Adem Jashari for the murder of a Serbian policeman, Serbian forces again attempted to assault the Jashari compound in Prekaz on 22 January 1998. With Jashari not present, thousands of Kosovo Albanians descended on Prekaz and again succeeded in pushing the Serbian forces out of the village and its surroundings. The next month, a small unit of the KLA was ambushed by Serbian policemen. Four Serbs were killed and two were injured in the ensuing clashes. At dawn on 5 March 1998, the KLA launched an attack against a police patrol in Prekaz, which was then answered by a police operation on the Jashari compound which left 58 Albanians dead, including Jashari. Four days after this, a NATO meeting was convoked, during which Madeleine Albright pushed for an anti-Serbian response. NATO now threatened Serbia with military response. The Kosovo War ensued, with subsequent NATO intervention.
The KLA launched 31 attacks in 1996, 55 in 1997, and 66 in January and February 1998. After the KLA killed four policemen in early March 1998, special Serbian police units retaliated and attacked three villages in Drenica. The Kosovo War ensued. The total number of attacks in 1998 was 1,470, compared to 66 the year before.
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