Sandžak Muslim militia

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Sandžak Muslim militia
Active April or June 1941–1945
Country  Independent State of Croatia
Branch Infantry
Type Militia

8,000–12,000 (April 1943)

  • 2,000 (standing forces)
  • Unknown (local auxiliary forces)

World War II in Yugoslavia

Komaran detachment Husein Rovčanin[2][3]
Hisardžik detachment Sulejman Pačariz
Pljevlja detachment Mustafa Zuković[4]
Sjenica detachment Hasan Zvizdić
Bijelo Polje detachment Ćazim Sijarić, Galjan Lukač
Petnjica detachment Osman Rastoder[5]
Islam creciente.png Crescent and star[6]

The Sandžak Muslim militia (Serbian: Муслиманска Усташка Милиција, or Муслиманска Милиција) was established in Sandžak and eastern Herzegovina in Axis occupied Yugoslavia between April or June and August 1941 during World War II. It was under control of the Independent State of Croatia until September 1941, when Italian forces gradually put it under their command and established additional units not only in Sandžak, but in eastern Herzegovina as well. After the capitulation of Italy in September 1943 it was put under German control, while some of its units were merged with three battalions of Albanian collaborationist troops to establish the "SS Polizei-Selbstschutz-Regiment Sandschak" under command of the senior Waffen SS officer Karl von Krempler.

The Sandžak Muslim militia had around 2,000 men in standing forces and additional auxiliary forces on local level. Its notable commanders include Hasan Zvizdić, Husein Rovčanin, Sulejman Pačariz, Ćazim Sijarić, Selim Juković, Biko Drešević, Ćamil Hasanagić and Galjan Lukač.[7][8]

It was one of three armed groups, besides the Chetniks and Yugoslav Partisans, that operated in Sandžak during the Second World War and engaged in violent internecine fight.[9] Moslem militia participated in the suppression of the Uprising in Montenegro, committing numerous crimes against Serbs of Montenegro.[10] After the suppression of the uprising this militia continued to fight against Yugoslav Partisans, but some of its units also carried on with attacks on Serbs in Sandžak and eastern Herzegovina. According to German and Croatian sources, the size of Muslim militia in April 1943 was between 8,000 and 12,000 men.[11]

Because of the alleged plans of Moslem militia to expel Serbs who lived on the right bank of Lim, Pljevlja, Čajniče and Foča in 1943, Montenegrin and Bosnian Chetniks attacked Muslim populated villages controlled by Moslem militia and killed around 1,600 militia members and 9,000 Muslim civilians. During the German administration Moslem militia and Montenegrin Chetniks together cooperated with Germans to continue struggling against Yugoslav Partisans.


The Ustaše movement considered Sandžak as an integral part of NDH, and despite pleas from the Muslim population of the Sandžak for the region to be included in the NDH, their hopes were not realised due to opposition from the Germans and Italians.[12] The Ustaše had territorial pretensions toward the whole territory of Sandžak as they considered Muslims as ethnic Croats.[13] Besides Sandžak, the territorial pretensions of Croatia included some other parts of both Montenegro and Serbia aimed to establish a common border with Albania and Bulgaria.[14]

Also, Muslims from Sandžak requested annexation of Sandžak, considering themselves a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to NDH. Delegations were sent to Zagreb to present those requests, through Sarajevo.[15] German authorities approved of Croatian aspirations to take control over Sandžak and establish a corridor between Serbia and Montenegro, as they saw local quislings as a way of relieving their troops of occupation duties in view of the upcoming invasion of the USSR.[16] Also, this corridor would be aimed at Serbia and Montenegro and against a re-establishment of Yugoslavia.

On 30 April in a letter to Ante Pavelić, Sarajevo[who?] requested annexation of Sandžak to the NDH and invited him to send Ustaše to every district of Sandžak.[16]

Establishment and Croatian administration[edit]

In the period between 29 April and 8 May 1941, Ustaše forces executed their order to capture Sandžak.[10] Between April[17] or June[18] and August 1941 they established Moslem Ustaše militia in the Sandžak, with strongholds in Brodarevo, Komaran, Hisardžik and parts of Novi Pazar, Štavički and Sjenica.[18]

On 15 May 1941 a group of Muslims from Pljevlja, Bijelo Polje and Prijepolje wrote to Pavelic and expressed the loyalty to NDH allegedly in the name of all Muslims of Sandjak.[19]

This way, besides German and Italian forces, Ustaše forces were established on the territory of Sandžak.[16] The Germans placed the town of Novi Pazar under the control of the Albanian nationalist Balli Kombëtar supporter Aćif Hadžiahmetović.[20]

On the territory of Sandžak there were many detachments of Moslem militia. All of them fought against Yugoslav Partisans in the all period of the existence of this militia. Moslem militia had standing forces of around 2,000 men who received salary and occasionally mobilized forces that were not paid. There were also auxiliary units organized on local level.[21]

Uprising in Montenegro[edit]

The Sandžak Muslim militia participated in the suppression of the Uprising in Montenegro,[22] committing numerous crimes against Serbs of Montenegro and Montenegrins.[10] The militia was ordered to attack Serb and Montenegrin villages.[23] On 19 July Moslem militia participated in attack on Serb villages on the right bank of river Lim.[10] Units of Moslem militia from Sjenica and Korita opened additional front-line against insurgents after they captured Bijelo Polje on 20 July 1941.[24] On 17 August 1941, the militia killed 11 villagers in Slatina village near Brodarevo.[16] A detachment of Muslim militia from Bihor commanded by Rastoder attacked insurgents toward Berane.[25] Muslim militia from Pljevlja helped Italians to burn and plunder the insurgents' houses during the Italian reprisals after the Battle of Pljevlja.[26]

Italian administration[edit]

Because of the unstable situation in Montenegro, the Ustaše remained in Sandžak only until the beginning of September 1941.[27] When the Ustaše were forced to leave Sandžak, Muslims who were allied with them and their Moslem militia[10] were left alone, and they allied themselves with the occupying Italian forces.[23] In eastern parts of Sandžak, Muslim militia collaborated with German and Albanian forces.[28]

In autumn 1941 the Italians appointed Osman Rastoder as a commander of the Muslim militia detachment in upper Bihor with its seat in Petnjica.[5] The detachment of militia in Gostun was commanded by Selim Juković.[29] At the end of September 1941, the militia from Tutin participated in the attack on Ibarski Kolašin, predominantly populated by Serbs.[25] In Sjenica a wealthy Muslim whole-trader Hasan Zvizdić became a city governor who armed many local Muslims and organized them as militia.[30] In mid November 1941 Chetnik unit of 40 men went to Kosatica trying to disarm Muslim militia commanded by Sulejman Pačariz. Militiamen refused to surrender their arms and in subsequent struggle two of them were killed while one Chetnik was wounded. To revenge death of his two men, Muslim militia under command of Pačariz attacked part of Kosatica populated by Serbs and captured, brutally tortured and killed seven Serbs from Kosatica.[31]

Commanders of Muslim militia (including Osman Rastoder, Sulejman Pačariz, Ćazim Sijarić and Husein Rovčanin) participated in a conference in village of Godijeva,[32] and agreed to attack Serb villages near Sjenica and other parts of Sandžak.[33] On 31 March 1942, Chetnik leader Pavle Đurišić met with Rastoder and offered him a peace agreement between Muslims and Orthodox people. Rastoder refused the proposed agreement.[26]

At the beginning of February 1942 detachments of Muslim militia from Sjenica, Prijepolje, Brodarevo and Komaran, together with Chetniks under command of Pavle Đurišić and Italian forces were planned to attack Partisans who were retreating through Sandžak after their defeat in Užice. When Pačariz realized that Partisans managed to defeat Chetniks, he did not dare to attack Partisans, but decided to move his forces to Sjenica to help Zvizdić in case Partisans decide to attack the town again.[23]

When Italian forces recaptured Čajniče (modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina) in April 1942, they established a detachment of Moslem militia of about 1,500 men and supplied part of them with arms.[34] The Moslem militia in Jabuka (near Foča) was commanded by Husin-beg Cengić.[35] Moslem militia in Bijelo Polje was founded by Ćazim Sijarić, Vehbo Bučan and Galjan Lukač.[23] In April 1942 Italians established a battalion of Moslem militia in Metaljka, near Čajniče, composed of about 500 Muslims from villages near Pljevlja and Čajniče. A little later a command post of Moslem militia was established in Bukovica, near Pljevlja. It was commanded by Latif Moćević whose units attacked and killed local Serbs since the end of May 1942.[36] In Goražde and Foča, in retaliation for killings of Serbs by the Moslem militia, Chetniks killed around 5,000 Muslim men, women and children at the end of 1941 and in 1942.[34]

The Prijepolje Conference was organized on 7 and 8 September and attended by the political and religious representatives of the both Christian and Muslim population of Sandžak, including the representatives of their armed forces. They all agreed on the resolution to resolve any disputes peacefully, to allow all refugees to return to their homes and to provide them help in food and other necessities. This agreement was not respected. Chetnik headquarter continued to receive reports about Muslim attacks on Serb population.[37] In December 1942 around 3,000 Muslims attacked Serbian village Buđevo and several surrounding villages near Sjenica, burned Serb houses and killed Serb civilians.[38] According to Chetnik sources, Muslims were preparing to expel Serbs who lived on the territory at the right bank of Lim, Pljevlja, Čajniče and Foča.[39] Montenegrin Chetniks commanded by Pavle Đurišić pursued raids of revenge against Muslims in Sandžak, many being innocent villagers, with original motive to settle account with Moslem militias.[40][41][42] On 7 January 1943 unit commanded by Ćazim Sijarić distinguished itself during attack of Chetniks led by Pavle Đurišić who burned many Muslim villages near Bijelo Polje.[43] On 10 January 1943, Đurišić reported that Chetniks under his command had burned down 33 Muslim villages in Bijelo Polje, killed 400 members of the Moslem militia, and had also killed about 1,000 Muslim women and children. Chetniks had 14 killed and 26 wounded men.[34] After subsequent attack of Chetniks from Sandžak and Bosnia on Bukovica (village near Pljevlja), they fought against Moslem militia and, according to the report of Pavle Đurišić, killed around 1,200 combatants and 8,000 civilians.[34][44] In period February — June 1943 Muslim militia and Albanian forces burned almost all Serb villages in Tutin, Sjenica, Prijepolje and Novi Pazar and killed many people.[45] According to the historian, Professor Jozo Tomasevich, all the circumstances of these "cleansing actions" carried out by Chetniks against Muslims in the Sandžak were a partial implementation of the directive issued to Đurišić by Mihailović in December 1941, which had ordered the cleansing of the Muslim population from the Sandžak.[46] In July 1943 Draža Mihajlović proposed to leaders of Muslim militia to agree to cooperate with Chetniks to fight against communists. In August 1943 Chetnik representative and Muslim leaders of Deževo met in village Pilareta and agreed to cease all hostilities between armed Muslim forces and Chetniks and to cooperate to fight against Partisans. All Chetniks' units in Sandžak were ordered not to confront with Muslims.[47]

Many commanders of Muslim militia gathered their people and publicly expressed their opinion that Chetniks are better than Partisans who they considered as robbers. Political leaders of Sandžak Muslims (Aćif Hadžiahmetović) and Albanians (Xhafer Deva) agreed that Sandžak should be annexed by the Independent State of Croatia or divided between Croatia and Albania.[48]

German administration[edit]

After the capitulation of Italy in early September 1943, Chetniks attacked and captured many Italian garrisons in Sandžak. On 11 and 12 September 1943 Chetniks tried to capture Prijepolje, but German forces supported by Muslim militia forced them to retreat with heavy casualties.[49]

During the German administration of Sandžak, after the capitulation of Italy, every detachment of the Moslem militia was obliged to provide a certain number of men for German military units.[23] Commanders of Muslim militia chose the most capable young soldiers and send them to Novi Pazar to be trained by the SS troops. Some of them were sent to Eastern Front.[50] When German forces took control over Pljevlja from Italians, they armed around 400 members of Moslem militia.[21] In Sjenica the German commanded Moslem militia killed 50 Chetniks.[51] Hasan Zvizdić equipped them with new, German, uniforms, allowing them to keep fez.[52]

Following his appointment to the post of Höhere SS-und Polizeiführer Sandschak (Higher SS and Police Leader Sandžak) in September 1943, Karl von Krempler came to be known as the "Sanjak Prince" after his relatively successful formation of the "SS Polizei-Selbstschutz-Regiment Sandschak" (or Self-Defense Regiment “Sandschak”, Serbian: Легија Фон Кремплер). He went to the Sandžak in October and took over the local volunteer militia of around 5,000 anti-communist, anti-Serb Muslim men headquartered in Sjenica. This formation was sometimes thereafter called the Kampfgruppe Krempler or more derisively the "Muselmanengruppe von Krempler". This military unit was created by joining the three battalions of Albanian collaborationist troops with some units of Moslem militia.[53] As the senior Waffen SS officer Karl von Krempler appointed a token local Muslim named Hafiz Sulejman Pačariz as the formal commander of the unit, but as the key military trainer and contact person with German arms and munitions, remained effectively in control.[54] In Bijelo Polje Moslem militia had two detachments. One was commanded by Ćazim Sijarić and the other was under command of Galjan Lukač. Both of them were subordinated to Krempler.[23] In November 1943 Germans ordered Muslims and Chetniks in Sandžak to cease their hostilities and to cooperate united under the German command. On 15 November he ordered to Sijarić to establish communication with local Chetnik detachments and together with them and detachment of Muslim militia commanded by Galijan, to attack communist forces in Bijelo Polje. Sijarić followed German orders.[55] On 3 February 1944 the units of the Muslim militia under command of Mula Jakup and also Biko Drešević, Sinan Salković and Faik Bahtijarević attacked villages around Kolašin. They were supported by Balli Kombëtar forces from Drenica.[25] At the beginning of April 1944 the Muslim militia participated in the battle against Partisans near Ivanjica, together with German, Chetnik and Nedic's forces.[56]

In September 1944 Tito proclaimed general amnesty, allowing collaborators to switch sides, and almost all older members of militia deserted.[57] On 22 September 1944 the Moslem militia surrendered Pljevlja to Partisans without resistance.[58] After being defeated by Partisans during their attack on Sjenica on 14 October, Pačariz and his Regiment left Sandžak and went to Sarajevo in November 1944 where "SS Polizei-Selbstschutz-Regiment Sandschak" was put under the command of Ustaše General Maks Luburić.[57]


Sulejman Pačariz was captured near Banja Luka in 1945, put on trial and found guilty for massacres of civilians. He was executed as war criminal.[3]

See also[edit]



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