13 April 1999 Albania–Yugoslav border incident

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13 April 1999 Albania–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 to Yugoslavia
  • 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] Unknown
Casualties and losses
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia None Albania None
3 houses destroyed

An incident took place on the Albania–Yugoslav border in April 1999 when the FR Yugoslav Army shelled several Albanian border towns around Krumë, Tropojë. In these villages, refugees were being housed after fleeing the war in Kosovo by crossing into Albania.[5] 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.[1][6]

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.[7] Yugoslav army units controlled the border in 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, with food often poor, and spare parts for army and police equipment and supplies were difficult to obtain.[8]

In particular, Albanian authorities were concerned with attempts by Serbia to implicate Albania as a supporter of terrorism.[7] The Albanian Army had an estimated 4,000–6,000 soldiers, and Yugoslavia was said to have "little regard" for the country's military.[9]

The Kosovo War was a conflict between the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The war caused thousands of Kosovo Albanians to join the KLA ranks. More than 500,000 ethnic Albanian refugees fled their homes to escape Yugoslav Army reprisals. Meanwhile, the KLA began to recruit in the refugee camps. There had been fighting along the border between the KLA and Yugoslav forces where KLA troops had infiltrated into Kosovo. The subsequent 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 reported that rebel forces had crossed over into Kosovo near Tropojë, a KLA stronghold, in the days before the attack, this incursion was confirmed by an OSCE monitor.[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.[6][10][1] 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] 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, soldiers of the Yugoslav Army fired at least 10 shells on the town of Krumë just before midnight, where refugees from Kosovo had taken shelter.[5] Albanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sokol Gjoka stated that the incident did not result in casualties on either side, and that three houses had been destroyed in the fighting.[11]

Reactions[edit]

OSCE monitors reported that Yugoslav paratroopers had crossed the border.[1]

  •  FR Yugoslavia The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Yugoslavia denied that Yugoslavian troops had entered Albania.[12]
  •  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"[12] 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" [4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f 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 "Kosova e vitit 1999, Turqia gati trupat të ndërhyjë ushtarakisht". Telegrafi. 18 March 2013. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ a b c d Daniszewski, John (14 April 1999). "Yugoslav Troops Said to Cross Into Albania". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ a b Pettifer & Vickers 2007, p. 127.
  8. ^ Pettifer & Vickers 2007, p. 106.
  9. ^ The New York Times 18 June 1998.
  10. ^ "Albania reports incursion by Yugoslav forces". BBC. 14 April 1999. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Lulzim Cota (13 April 1999). "Albanian report: Troops crossed border". United Press International. 
  12. ^ a b "Albania says Serb forces cross border, occupy village". CNN. 13 April 1999. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. 

Notes[edit]