Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac
|Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac
Ushtria Çlirimtare e Preshevës, Medvegjës dhe Bujanocit
|Participant in Insurgency in the Preševo Valley|
|Area of operations||Preševo Valley, Serbia, FR Yugoslavia|
The Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac (Albanian: Ushtria Çlirimtare e Preshevës, Medvegjës dhe Bujanocit, UÇPMB) was an Albanian separatist militant insurgent group fighting for independence from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for the three municipalities: Preševo, Bujanovac, and Medveđa, home to most of the Albanians in south Serbia, adjacent to Kosovo.
UÇPMB's uniforms, procedures and tactics mirrored those of the then freshly disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The 1500-strong paramilitary, which included minors, operated from 1999 to 2001 (see Insurgency in the Preševo Valley), with the goal to secede these municipalities from Yugoslavia and join them into Kosovo.
After the end of the Kosovo War in 1999, a three-mile "Ground Safety Zone" (GSZ) was established between Kosovo (governed by United Nations) and inner Serbia and Montenegro. Military of Serbia and Montenegro (VJ) units were not permitted there, and only the lightly armed Serb Ministry of Internal Affairs forces were left in the area. The exclusion zone included the predominantly Albanian village of Dobrosin, but not Preševo.
Former KLA members quickly established bases in the demilitarized zone, and Serbian police had to stop patrolling the area to avoid being ambushed. Attacks were also made on ethnic Albanian politicians opposed to the KLA, including the assassination of Zemail Mustafi, the Albanian vice-president of the Bujanovac branch of Slobodan Milošević's Socialist Party of Serbia. Between June 21, 1999 and November 12, 2000, 294 attacks were recorded, most of them (246) in Bujanovac, 44 in Medveđa and six in Preševo. These attacks resulted in 14 people killed (of which six were civilians and eight were policemen), 37 people wounded (two UN observers, three civilians and 34 policemen) and five civilians kidnapped. In their attacks, UÇPMB used mostly assault rifles, machine guns, mortars and sniper rifles, but occasionally also RPGs, hand grenades, and anti-tank and anti-personnel mines.
Seeing that the situation was getting out of control, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allowed the VJ to reclaim the demilitarized zone on May 24, 2001, at the same time giving the UÇPMB the opportunity to turn themselves over to Kosovo Force (KFOR), which promised to just take their weapons and note their names before releasing them. More than 450 UÇPMB members took advantage of KFOR's "screen and release" policy, among them Shefket Musliu, the commander of the UÇPMB, who turned himself over to KFOR at a checkpoint along the GSZ just after midnight of May 26, 2001.
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