Kosovo War

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 Zastava Koral 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 Yugoslavia) and Albania (Albanian & OSCE Claim)[3][4][5][6]

Kumanovo Treaty

No legal changes to Yugoslav borders according to the Resolution 1244, but effective political and economic separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia due to being placed under UN administration and subsequent declaration of independence

Kosovo Liberation Army KLA

Commanders and leaders

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

NATO Wesley Clark

Albania Kudusi Lama [13]

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milošević
Dragoljub Ojdanić
Nebojša Pavković
Vlastimir Đorđević[14]

Vladimir Lazarević[15]
Sreten Lukić

Logo of the Kosovo Liberation Army 17,000–20,000 KLA insurgents[16]

NATO cca. 80 aircraft
(Operation Eagle Eye)[17]
NATO 1,031 aircraft
(Operation Allied Force)[18]
NATO 30+ warships and submarines[19]

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 85,000 soldiers[20] (including 40,000 in and around Kosovo)[19]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 20,000 policemen
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 100 SAM sites[19]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1,400 artillery pieces
(Both ground & air defence)[19]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 240 aircraft [19]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 2,032 armoured vehicles & tanks[19]
Serbian paramilitary units (Šakali, Škorpioni), unknown number

Russia Russian volunteers, unknown number [21][22]
Casualties and losses

Logo of the Kosovo Liberation Army 1,500 insurgents killed (per the KLA)[23]
Logo of the Kosovo Liberation Army 2,131 insurgents killed (per the HLC)[24]

United States 2 killed (non-combat) and 3 captured[25][26]
United States 2 aircraft shot down and 3 damaged[27][28][29][30]
United States Two AH-64 Apaches and an AV-8B Harrier crashed (non-combat)[31]
NATO 47 UAVs shot down[32]

France Possible unknown number of DGSE officers killed[33]

Caused by KLA:
300+ soldiers killed (per the Yugoslav military)[34]
Caused by NATO:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1,008–1,200 killed[b]
14 tanks,[39] 18 APCs, 20 artillery pieces[40] and 121 aircraft and helicopters destroyed[41]

Caused by KLA and NATO:
1,084 killed (per the HLC)[24]

Albania 8,676 Kosovar Albanian civilians killed or missing[24]
Albania 90% of Kosovar Albanians displaced during the war[42] (848,000–863,000 expelled from Kosovo,[43][44][45] 590,000 Kosovar Albanians displaced within Kosovo)[42]
1,641[24]–2,500[46] Serb and other non-Albanian civilians killed or missing (445 Roma and others)[24]
230,000 Kosovo Serbs, Romani and other non-Albanian civilians displaced[47]
/Albania Civilian deaths caused by NATO bombing: 489–528 (per Human Rights Watch)[48] or 453–2,500 (per the HLC and Tanjug);[24][46] also includes China 3 Chinese journalists killed

13,548 civilians and fighters dead overall (Albanians, Serbs, Bosniaks, Roma)[49]

The Kosovo War was an armed conflict in Kosovo that started in late February 1998[50][51] and lasted until 11 June 1999.[52] 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.[53]

The KLA, formed in the early 1990s to fight against Serbian persecution of Kosovo Albanians,[54] initiated its first campaign in 1995 when it launched attacks against Serbian law enforcement in Kosovo. 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 in which weapons were looted from the country's police and army posts. In early 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;[55] this campaign killed 1,500 to 2,000 civilians and KLA combatants.[56][57]

After attempts at a diplomatic solution failed, NATO intervened, justifying the campaign in Kosovo as a "humanitarian war".[58] This precipitated a mass expulsion of Kosovar Albanians as the Yugoslav forces continued to fight during the aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia (March–June 1999).[59][60] By 2000, investigations had recovered the remains of almost three thousand victims of all ethnicities,[61] 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.[62]

The war ended with the Kumanovo Treaty, with Yugoslav and Serb forces[63] agreeing to withdraw from Kosovo to make way for an international presence.[64][65] The Kosovo Liberation Army disbanded soon after this, with some of its members going on to fight for the UÇPMB in the Preševo Valley[66] and others joining the National Liberation Army (NLA) and Albanian National Army (ANA) during the armed ethnic conflict in Macedonia,[67] while others went on to form the Kosovo Police.[68] After the war, a list was compiled which documented that over 13,500 people were killed or went missing during the two year conflict.[69] 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 and many of the remaining civilians were victims of abuse.[72] Serbia became home to the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Europe.[73][74]

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,[75] including substantial numbers of Kosovar refugees.[76][77]


Kosovo in Tito's Yugoslavia (1945–1980)

The modern Albanian-Serbian conflict has its roots in the expulsion of the Albanians 1877–1878 from areas that became incorporated into the Principality of Serbia.[78][79] 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 Socialist 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, but Yugoslav security forces quelled them. 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.[80]

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.[81]

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.[82] 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.[83] 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.[84]

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.[85] 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".[85] 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".[85]

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.[86]

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 war 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).[87][88][89] 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.[90][91] In February Kosovar Albanians demonstrated in large numbers against the proposal, emboldened by striking miners.[89][92] Serbs in Belgrade protested against the Kosovo Albanian's separatism.[93] On 3 March 1989 the Presidency of Yugoslavia imposed special measures assigning responsibility for public security to the federal government.[92] On 23 March the Assembly of Kosovo voted to accept the proposed amendments although most Albanian delegates abstained.[92] 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.[92][94]

On 8 May 1989 Milošević became President of the Presidency of Serbia, which was confirmed on 6 December.[92] 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.[95] In January 1990 the Yugoslav government announced it would press ahead with the creation of a multi-party system.[95]

On 26 June 1990 Serbian authorities closed the Kosovo Assembly, citing special circumstances.[94] On 1 or 2 July 1990 Serbia approved the new amendments to the Constitution of Serbia in a referendum.[94][96] Also on 2 July, 114 ethnic Albanian delegates of the 180-member Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo an independent republic within Yugoslavia.[94][92] On 5 July the Serbian Assembly dissolved the Kosovo Assembly.[94][92] Serbia also dissolved the provincial executive council and assumed full and direct control of the province.[97] Serbia took over management of Kosovo's principal Albanian-language media, halting Albanian-language broadcasts.[97] On 4 September 1990 Kosovar Albanians observed a 24-hour general strike, virtually shutting down the province.[97]

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.[98][92] 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.[96]

On 7 September 1990 the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo was promulgated by the disbanded Assembly of Kosovo.[96] Milošević responded by ordering the arrest of the deputies of the disbanded Assembly of Kosovo.[97] The new controversial Serbian Constitution was promulgated on 28 September 1990.[91] Multi-party elections were held in Serbia on 9 and 26 December 1990 after which Milošević became President of Serbia.[92] In September 1991 Kosovar Albanians held an unofficial referendum in which they voted overwhelmingly for independence.[92] On 24 May 1992 Kosovar Albanians held unofficial elections for an assembly and president of the Republic of Kosovo.[92]

On 5 August 1991 the Serbian Assembly suspended the Priština daily Rilindja,[97][99] 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.[100] 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.[100]

Other Languages
العربية: حرب كوسوفو
asturianu: Guerra de Kosovu
azərbaycanca: Kosovo müharibəsi
български: Косовска война
bosanski: Kosovski rat
čeština: Válka v Kosovu
Cymraeg: Rhyfel Cosofo
Deutsch: Kosovokrieg
Esperanto: Kosova Milito
فارسی: جنگ کوزوو
français: Guerre du Kosovo
한국어: 코소보 전쟁
hrvatski: Rat na Kosovu
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Kosovo
ქართული: კოსოვოს ომი
latviešu: Kosovas krīze
lietuvių: Kosovo karas
Limburgs: Kosovo-krieëg
македонски: Косовска војна
Bahasa Melayu: Perang Kosovo
Nederlands: Kosovo-oorlog
日本語: コソボ紛争
norsk nynorsk: Kosovokrigen
português: Guerra do Kosovo
Scots: Kosovo War
Simple English: Kosovo War
slovenčina: Vojna v Kosove
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Rat na Kosovu
svenska: Kosovokriget
татарча/tatarça: Косово сугышы
Türkçe: Kosova Savaşı
українська: Косовська війна
Tiếng Việt: Chiến tranh Kosovo