1998-02-01 to 1999-06-11
Kosovo, Serbia, AlbaniaThe Kosovo War was an armed conflict in Kosovo that started in late February 1998 and lasted until 11 June 1999. It was fought by the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (i.e. Serbia and Montenegro), 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, and some views argue that war stared 5 march 1998.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In March 1989 Milošević (Later President of Serbia) 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.
In early 1998, KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) 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 sympathizers and political opponents; this campaign killed 1,500 to 2,000 civilians and KLA combatants.
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 (was one of the founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)) and his followers in the village of Donje Prekaze. On March 5, 1998, 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.
During this time, Yugoslav President Milošević reached an arrangement with Boris Yeltsin of Russia to stop offensive operations and prepare for talks with the Albanians, who refused to talk to the Serbian side throughout the crisis, but would talk with the Yugoslav government. In fact, the only meeting between Milošević and Ibrahim Rugova (first President of the Republic of Kosova) happened on 15 May in Belgrade, two days after Richard Holbrooke announced that it would take place. Holbrooke threatened Milošević that if he did not obey, "what's left of your country will implode". A month later, Holbrooke visited the border areas affected by the fighting in early June, where 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 US was decisively backing the KLA and the Albanian population in Kosovo.
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, a NATO show of force over the Yugoslav borders.
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.
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.
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', demanding that all parties in Kosovo and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia cease hostilities and maintain a ceasefire.
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.
On 30 January 1999 NATO issued a statement announcing that the North Atlantic Council had agreed that "the NATO Secretary General may authorize air strikes against targets on FRY territory" to "[compel] compliance with the demands of the international community and [to achieve] a political settlement".
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.
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.
The first NATO troops to enter Pristina on the 12th of June 1999 were Norwegian special forces from Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK) 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.
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.
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.