Drenica massacres

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Drenica massacres
Drenica region.png
Municipalities of Glogovac and Srbica in Drenica region in central Kosovo.
Location Drenica, Kosovo, FR Yugoslavia
Coordinates 42°24′51″N 20°32′42″E / 42.4143°N 20.545°E / 42.4143; 20.545
Date February - March 1998
March – June 1999
Target Kosovo Albanians
Attack type
Mass Killings
Deaths 83 civilians dead, including at least 24 women and children in the villages of Ćirez, Likoshan, and Prekaz[1]
Perpetrators FR Yugoslavia security forces

The Drenica massacres (Serbian: Масакри у Дреници, Masakri u Drenici, Albanian: Masakra në Drenicë) were a series of killings of Kosovo Albanian civilians committed by Serbian special police forces[a] in the Drenica region of central Kosovo.[2]

According to Human Rights Watch, abuses in the Drenica region during the Kosovo War 1998–1999 "were so widespread that a comprehensive description is beyond the scope of this report".[2] Key atrocities took place in the period of February – March 1998 in the Ćirez (Qirez), Likoshane, and Prekaz and during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, from March to June 1999 in the villages of Izbica, Rezala, Poklek and Staro Ćikatovo.[2]


Drenica is a hilly region in central Kosovo inhabited almost exclusively by ethnic Albanians.[1] The inhabitants of the region have a long tradition of strong resistance to outside powers, dating back to Ottoman rule in the Balkans.[1] The villages of the Drenica region are the birthplace of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which began armed operations in Drenica in 1996. By 1997, Kosovo Albanians had begun to refer to Drenica as "liberated territory" because of the KLA's presence.[1]

Massacres in 1998[edit]

In January 1998, Serbian special police began operations that raided villages in Drenica linked to the KLA.[1] Between February 28 and March 5, police launched multiple military-style attacks on the villages of Ćirez, Likoshan and Prekaz, using armored vehicles and helicopters.[1] Although the KLA engaged in combat during these attacks, government forces fired at women, children, and other noncombatants.[2]

On February 28 and March 1, responding to KLA ambushes of the police, special forces attacked two adjacent villages, Ćirez and Likoshan. These forces included helicopters, armored vehicles, mortars and machine guns which were turned without warning on civilians in the two villages.[3] In all there were 24 civilians killed in the Ćirez and Likošane massacres.[4] Less than one week later, on 5 March special police attacked the nearby village of Prekaz - home of Adem Jashari, the leader of the KLA. Jashari was killed along with his entire family, including women and children.[2] The attacks, and the fighting that ensued, left 83 villagers dead, including at least 24 women and children.[1]

In all 83 Kosovo Albanians were killed.[5] Among the dead were elderly people and at least 24 women and children.[6] Many of the victims were shot at close range which suggested summary executions; subsequent reports from eyewitnesses confirmed this.[7]

On 3 March 1998, some 50,000 people gathered for the burial of 24 Drenica massacre victims in the village of Likoshan.[4] These massacres were partly responsible for the radicalisation of the Kosovo Albanian population and helped to solidify armed opposition to Belgrade's rule.[2] Many ethnic Albanians who had been committed to the nonviolent politics of Ibrahim Rugova decided to join the KLA, in part because they viewed armed insurgency as the only means of achieving independence.[2][2]

The massacres marked the beginning of the Kosovo War. After 28 February 1998, the fighting become an armed conflict.[2] Once armed conflict broke out, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) became involved. On March 10 the ICTY proclaimed that its "jurisdiction covers the recent violence in Kosovo".[2]

Massacres in 1999[edit]

Satellite imagery of new mass burial site of Izbica massacre in Drenica region.

Three months of terror followed, as Serbian police and paramilitaries backed by the army attacked and cleared of its civilian population village after village in its efforts to destroy both the KLA and its base of support. Adult males were detained en masse and hundreds were executed. Killings were not confined to persons regarded as potential combatants. As with earlier massacres in Gornje Obrinje and Račak, women and children from the families of persons linked to the KLA were also killed.[1]

— Report of the Human Right Watch

Between 19 March and 15 June 1999, government forces in Drenica engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Albanians of Kosovo that involved summary and arbitrary executions, detentions, beatings, looting, and destruction of schools, hospitals, and other civilian objects."[8]

Glogovac (Gllogovc), a municipality that was a stronghold of the KLA in Drenica, was hard hit by this campaign. In Stari Poklek, a village close to Glogovac, Yugoslav forces executed two men and the family of one of the men due to their KLA links. Out of 47 family members (including 23 children under fifteen years old) that the forces attempted to kill with a grenade thrown into a room, there were six survivors.[8] In Vrbovac, it is believed that 150 people were executed.[8] Albanians, KLA members, suspected KLA members and their families in other villages surrounding Glogovac were also subject to execution by Serb forces. In Glogovac, over five days in May, the majority of the population was expelled and sent toward the Macedonian border.[8]

In Ćikatovo, more than 100 ethnic Albanians were executed and buried in a mass grave according to war crimes investigators.[9]

On 15 June 1999, Yugoslav forces withdrew from Glogovac following an agreement signed by NATO.[8]

Mass graves[edit]

In May 2010, a mass grave containing 250 bodies from the massacres were found in the village of Rudnica in Serbia.[10] The bodies were transferred from graves located in Drenica in May or early June 1999.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Abrahams, Fred (2001). "Drenica Region". Under Orders: War Crimes in Kosovo. Human Rights Watch.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Abrahams, Fred (2001). "Background". Under Orders: War Crimes in Kosovo. Human Rights Watch.
  3. ^ "ICTY Trial Judgment: The Prosecutor v. Fatmir Limaj et al. paras 49-50". U.N. 30 November 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Kosovo: A Bloody Weekend In Drenica". Transitions Online. 7 March 1998.
  5. ^ "ICTY Trial Judgment: The Prosecutor v. Fatmir Limaj et al. paras 49-50". U.N. 30 November 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  6. ^ "ICTY Trial Judgment: The Prosecutor v. Fatmir Limaj et al. paras 49-50". U.N. 30 November 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  7. ^ "ICTY Trial Judgment: The Prosecutor v. Fatmir Limaj et al. paras 49-50". U.N. 30 November 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d e Ward, Ben (1999). Kosovo: "Ethnic Cleansing" in the Glogovac Municipality. Human Rights Watch.
  9. ^ Kelly, Patricia (28 August 1999). "Holbrooke visits Kosovo mass grave to 'bear witness'". CNN.
  10. ^ Borger, Julian (10 May 2010). "Kosovo Albanian mass grave found under car park in Serbia". The Telegraph.
  11. ^ Barlovac, Bojana (19 May 2010). "Serbia: Probe of Raska Mass Grave Site to Begin". Balkan Insight.

External links[edit]


a.   ^ In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992-2003) and its successor Serbia and Montenegro (2003-2006), the security structure meant that there was one national army (Vojska Jugoslavije) but separate police divisions per republic. All operations carried out by the Serbian police during the Kosovo war were sanctioned by and represented the central government in Belgrade.