Battle of Košare
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|Battle of Košare|
|Part of the Kosovo War|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Svetozar Marjanović
|1,000 soldiers and volunteers
|Casualties and losses|
|108 killed||114 killed (excluding those killed by NATO's friendly fire)|
The Battle of Košare (Serbian: Бој на Кошарама/Boj na Košarama; Albanian: Beteja e Kosharës) was fought during the Kosovo War between the FR Yugoslav Forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the latter supported by the NATO and Albanian Army. The battle was fought around Košare on the border between FR Yugoslavia and Albania from 9 April until 10 June during the NATO bombing of FR Yugoslavia.
The point of attack from the Albanian side was a land invasion of Kosovo and the cutting off of the communications of the Yugoslav Army between the forces in Prizren and Djakovica. Another goal was the taking of the region of Metohija. After days of heavy fighting, the Yugoslav Army kept the KLA from advancing into Kosovo. KLA insurgents managed to take the Košare outpost following a massive artillery barrage by the Albanian Army and NATO bombardardment of strategic sites held by the Yugoslavs, but were not able to break the Yugoslav Army's second line of defense. It was the first and only battle in the Kosovo War in which the Yugoslav Forces had significant losses.
On 9 April 1999, at 03:00, an artillery barrage began from the Albanian side of the border, aimed in the direction of the Košare military outpost, which was occupied by the Yugoslav Army. The Albanians attacked in three directions, the first was towards Rasa Košare, the second was towards the well-defended Košare outpost and the third was towards Maja Glava. During the artillery bombardment, approximately 1,500 KLA militants reached the border unspotted. At that time less than 200 members of the Yugoslav Army were stationed at the front line. Bloody fighting ensued and lasted the whole day with heavy losses on Albanian side. Later, the KLA seized the peak of Rasa Košares and immediately began entrenching themselves.
The battle continued all night until the next morning. Then, with massive artillery support, the KLA took Maja Glava and continued to bombard the Košare Outpost, which resulted in the Yugoslav soldiers having to abandon their posts. At 19:00, members of the KLA entered the abandoned outpost and CNN and the British BBC broadcast images of a great number of KLA militants taking the outpost.
Members of the Yugoslav Forces then retreated towards the second line of defense above the outpost. Those positions were much more easier to defend. The next day, Yugoslav reserve troops arrived to relieve the First Army. One batch of KLA soldiers managed to cut the Yugoslav line of communications, and managed to damage one BOV vehicle. During the night, the KLA attacked the Yugoslav Army at Opijaz, trying to shatter the resistance of the Yugoslav soldiers, but all of the attacks were unsuccessful and resulted in the Yugoslav Army inflicting heavy losses on the KLA insurgents. The next day, the KLA tried to break the resistance of the second defensive line of the Yugoslav Army, with little success. Meanwhile, the Yugoslavs managed to bring in their Special Forces and also a few artillery pieces.
Reorganization of Yugoslav positions and counterattack
Albanian Army and KLA artillery continued to shell the Yugoslav Army's positions from Maja Glava and Rasa Košares. The Yugoslav Army Headquarters decided to launch a sudden attack and surprise the enemy. On April 14, Yugoslav troops attacked Maja Glava. The distance between the two enemy trenches wasn't longer than 50 meters. The Yugoslav Army was unable to take Maja Glava completely, but it prevented the Albanians' artillery from engaging them from their positions. The Maja Glava front was stabilized until the end of the war, without any changes on the lines.
In April, there weren't any changes on the front lines at Rasa Košares and both sides suffered heavy losses. Many Yugoslav soldiers were killed by the non-stop artillery bombardment, while many KLA soldiers were killed in numerous unsuccessful attempts to break the Yugoslav lines of defense.
May at Košare
May began with several unsuccessful attacks by the Yugoslav Army to take back the Košare outpost. The attacks were made unsuccessful because of the constant artillery fire aimed at their positions. On the 6th of May, the Yugoslav Army counterattacked at Rasa Košares, in an effort to halt the artillery bombardment. A bloody skirmish ensued, but the Yugoslav Army did not manage to take Rasa Košares. On 10 May, the Yugoslav Army sent two T-55 tanks to help stabilize the offensive on Rasa Košares. When the tanks penetrated the KLA's lines, they managed to gain over 100 meters of insurgent-held territory, but the KLA still managed to retain control of Rasa Košares. During the night between the 10th and the 11th of May, NATO bombers dropped dozens of bombs on the Yugoslav troops who had attacked KLA positions under Rasa Košares. At least in two of these instances NATO dropped cluster bombs on Yugoslav army troops. In these attacks, NATO killed 8 Yugoslav soldiers and one officer and managed to wound over 40. The KLA seized the opportunity to attack and fought the Yugoslav soldiers out of their positions and forced them back. During the middle of May, many bloody skirmishes were fought at Mrcaj, which was eventually taken by the Yugoslav Army. After the Yugoslavs had inflicted some casualties on the insurgents, the KLA had to retreat from their positions giving the Yugoslavs the chance to take the now undefended position. This development allowed the Yugoslav Army to stabilize their position on the battlefield and to hold the attackers outside of their line of defense. On 22 May, NATO aircraft mistakenly bombed KLA positions, killing 67.
The Kosovo War lasted until 10 June. The Kumanovo Agreement was signed and the Yugoslav Army, paramilitaries and police-forces had to pull out of Kosovo. The KFOR entered Kosovo as a peacekeeping force. The KLA was, under the terms of the Kumanovo Treaty, disarmed and disbanded, however many of its members left Kosovo and joined Albanian organizations in the Insurgency in the Preševo Valley (Serbia) and Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia.
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- Milovan Drecun: Pakao Košara, a documentary about the battle