Albania–Yugoslav border incident

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Albanian–Yugoslav border incident
Part of the Kosovo War
Albanian army deploys T-59 tanks near Kosovo border, May 1999 (Robert Wright).jpg
Albanian Type 59 Tanks at the border
Date 13 April 1999[1]
Location Krumë, Kukës and surrounding villages
Result Status quo ante bellum
  • Yugoslav forces retreat
  • Albanian army retakes control
  • Albania breaks diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia[2]
Belligerents
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Yugoslav Army (VJ) Albania Ad hoc Albanian farmers
Albania Emblem of the Albanian mod.svg Albanian Army
Commanders and leaders
Unknown Emblem of the Albanian mod.svg Kudusi Lama[3]
Strength
50 soldiers[1] of 63rd Paratroop Battalion[4][5] Unknown
Casualties and losses
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 3 soldiers captured (Albanian claim)[6]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia "multiple soldiers killed" (Albanian claim)[4]
Albania 3 civilians killed
Albania 6 civilians wounded[1]
Chile Journalist shot and wounded by a sniper rifle[7]

An Albania–Yugoslav border incident took place in April 1999 when the FR Yugoslav Army shelled several Albanian border towns around Krumë, Tropojë. In these villages, refugees and insurgents of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were being housed after fleeing the war in Kosovo by crossing into Albania.[8] On 13 April 1999, Yugoslav infantry entered Albanian territory to close off an area that was used by the KLA to stage attacks against Yugoslav targets.

Background[edit]

In early 1998, as tensions increased in Kosovo, it became increasingly difficult for the Albanian Army to monitor the country's 140-kilometre (87 mi) border with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and cope with the steady influx of Kosovo Albanian refugees into the country.[9] VJ units controlled the border along a few areas, but generally relied on the remote mountainous terrain to do their work for them. Many Yugoslav border units suffered from lack of manpower, the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia having seriously damaged their resources. The morale of soldiers was low, food was of very poor quality, and spare parts for army and police equipment and supplies were difficult to come by.[10]

In particular, Albanian authorities were concerned with attempts by Serbia to implicate Albania as a supporter of terrorism.[9] The Albanian Army had an estimated 4,000–6,000 soldiers, and Yugoslavia was said to have "little regard" for the country's military.[11]

The Kosovo War was a conflict between the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The war had expanded after the attack on Prekaz which saw thousands of ethnic Albanians joining the KLA ranks. More than 500,000 Albanian refugees fled to Albania to escape Yugoslav Army reprisals. Meanwhile, the KLA began to recruit in the refugee camps. There had been fighting in along the border between the FRY and Albania between the KLA and Yugoslav forces where KLA troops had infiltrated into Kosovo. The forthcoming incursion by the FRY could have been in response to KLA actions in the area, according to Albanian police.[6]

Ruins near Morinë in the White Drin valley, at the border between Albania and Kosovo.

Relations between the FRY and Albania had been strained as 300,000 ethnic Albanians had fled into Albania itself. The Yugoslavs had been angered over Albania's support of NATO airstrikes and its sheltering of KLA militants. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had reported previous Yugoslav Army incursions into Albanian territory. The border was lightly defended by the Albanian Army which was ordered not to fire back after a Yugoslav Army attack. A KLA commander had reported that rebel forces had crossing over into Kosovo near Tropojë, a KLA stronghold, in the days before the attack.[6]

Incident[edit]

On 13 April 1999, Yugoslav infantry entered Albanian territory to close off an area that was used by the KLA to stage attacks against Yugoslav targets.[12] FR Yugoslav forces maneuvered into the village of Kamenica, searching for KLA insurgents and torched several houses in the process.[1] They advanced 8 miles into Albanian territory before being halted by local militiamen and around thirty KLA insurgents.[citation needed] The undermanned Yugoslav units were then forced back by their numerically superior opponents.[citation needed] After two hours of fighting, the Albanian Army was deployed and started shelling the Yugoslav positions with howitzers, Type 59 tanks and MLRs.[citation needed] Within 10 minutes, the Yugoslav paratroopers retreated and crossed the border into Yugoslavia.[citation needed] The Albanian Army then continued shelling the Yugoslav units while they were retreating back across the border.[citation needed]

From their positions on the Yugoslavian side of the border, the soldiers of the Yugoslav Army fired at least 10 shells on the town of Krumë, where hundreds of ethnic Albanian refugees and KLA insurgents were seeking refuge. The shelling happened just before midnight, prompting a massive exodus to the town of Kukes, some 10 miles from the Kosovo-Albanian border.[8]

Albania claimed several dead Yugoslav soldiers, and Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said that several bodies where pulled out by the Yugoslavs, in order to prevent a further escalation of international reactions.

Reactions[edit]

According to international war rules, Albania could have declared war on Yugoslavia when paratroopers crossed into Albanian territory. The OSCE said it was in retaliation for KLA attacks in Kosovo. Despite the OSCE also reporting that Yugoslav paratroopers crossed the border, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Yugoslavia denied any attack had occurred.

  •  FR Yugoslavia The ministry declared that Yugoslavian airborne troops did not enter Albania.[13]
  •  Albania Ministry of foreign affairs declared that "The infantry troops of the Serb forces have penetrated up to two kilometers (1.2 miles) inside Albania after two hours of bomb shelling on our side"[13] On 18 April, Albania and Yugoslavia broke off all diplomatic relations.[2]
  •  Turkey Prime minister Bülent Ecevit stated that he would allow that "If necessary, Turkey would defend along with Albania sovereignty and independence of the befriended and brother people of Albania" [5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Daly, Emma (14 April 1999). "War in the Balkans: Serbs enter Albania and burn village". The Independent. 
  2. ^ a b Elsie 2010, p. 246.
  3. ^ Katamaj, Halil (2002), Kudusi Lama, gjenerali i luftes : Divizioni i Kukësit gjatë Luftës së Kosovës, Tiranë: Mokra, ISBN 99927-781-0-5 [page needed]
  4. ^ a b Majko, Pandeli (26 March 2013). "TV Klan interview given of ex-PM Pandeli Majko (declaration on 52:23)". Opinion. 
  5. ^ a b "Kosova e vitit 1999, Turqia gati trupat të ndërhyjë ushtarakisht". Telegrafi. 18 March 2013. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Daniszewski, John (14 April 1999). "Yugoslav Troops Said to Cross Into Albania". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/europe/9905/27/chilean.journalist/
  8. ^ a b Fisher, Ian (7 June 1999). "Surge of Fighting on Kosovo-Albania Border crossings of Albania / Refugees on the run again for safety". New York Times. 
  9. ^ a b Pettifer & Vickers 2007, p. 127.
  10. ^ Pettifer & Vickers 2007, p. 106.
  11. ^ The New York Times 18 June 1998.
  12. ^ "Albania reports incursion by Yugoslav forces". BBC. 14 April 1999. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  13. ^ a b "Albania says Serb forces cross border, occupy village". CNN. 13 April 1999. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014.