Operation Horseshoe: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Damaged Albanian settlements in Kosovo 1998-1999.

Operation Horseshoe is a name attributed to a large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing of Albanians carried out by Serbian Police and Yugoslav Army during the Kosovo War.[1][2][3] The actual existence of such a plan is disputed.[4]

The Yugoslav Army and the Serbian Police were in spring 1999. "in an organized manner, with significant use of state resources" conducted a broad campaign of violence against Albanian civilians in order to expel them from Kosovo and thus maintain political control of Belgrade over the province.[5]

It remains unclear whether the codename "Operation Horseshoe" (Serbian: Operacija Potkovica) was ever used for a Serbian military operation. However, Operation Horseshoe has been raised in trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.


Alleged Horseshoe plan

Horseshoe plan (German: Hufeisenplan) was the name given by the German government to an alleged Serbian plan to expel the Albanian population of Kosovo. The operation's title suggest that Serbian military and police would squeeze the KLA and civilians in an attack launched from three sides, driving out the population as refugees fled through the open southwestern end of the horseshoe into Macedonia and Albania.[1] It was cited in support of the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War.

The alleged plan was detailed by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in a press conference on 7 April 1999. He stated that the German government had unearthed operational plans agreed by Yugoslav commanders in late February 1999 to carry out a massive ethnic cleansing operation in Kosovo. According to Fischer, this had been put into effect as early as March 1999 — a month before the start of NATO operations — when Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević had told him that "he would be finished with the ethnic Albanian separatists within a week". Fischer accused Milošević of engaging in "ethnic warfare" directed against his own people, in which a whole ethnic group had become the "victim of systematic expulsion" to "reorient the political geography" of Kosovo.

Kosovar refugees in Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro (April 1999).

Further details were provided on 9 April by Rudolf Scharping, the German Defence Minister, at a press conference held in Bonn. He presented maps containing the names of towns and villages which showed arrows representing Yugoslva army and police militia units progressively encircling Kosovo in a horseshoe-shaped pincer movement. He was quoted as saying that: "Operation Horseshoe provided clear evidence that President Milošević had long been preparing the expulsions from Kosovo and that he had simply used the time gained by the Rambouillet peace talks to organise army and police units for the campaign."

Unnamed sources from other countries supported Fischer's allegations. The Times of London reported on 8 April that:

The CIA was aware as early as last autumn of a plan, codenamed Operation Horseshoe, to kill or drive them out over several months. A village a day was the rate that Mr Milošević calculated the West would wring its hands over without acting. In Priština, public records have been combed to identify precisely which homes, shops and businesses were Albanian-owned; Serb police and paramilitaries have emptied towns and villages neighbourhood by neighbourhood in a pattern that has been as unvaried as it has been ruthless.
The packed trains, the snipers picking off those who strayed out of line on the forced marches to the borders: every detail points to the existence of a detailed blueprint, without which so many could not have been murdered or driven into exile within a fortnight. In this context, yesterday's reported sealing of the frontiers by Serb forces is a sinister development; there is no such thing as safety in Kosovo for a people marked for destruction solely because of their racial identity.[6]

According to The Observer newspaper, the Horseshoe plan was that:

The Serb military and police would squeeze the KLA and civilians in an attack launched from three sides, destroying the KLA's bases and fighters and driving out the population as refugees fled through the open southwestern end of the horseshoe into Macedonia and Albania.[7]

The Baltimore Sun suggested on 11 April that NATO had known about the "Horseshoe" plan for some time, but had underestimated its severity. The then British Foreign Secretary later supported the German reports, telling a parliamentary committee "that there was a plan developed in Belgrade known as Operation Horseshoe which was for the cleansing of Kosovo of its Kosovo population. That plan has been around for some time."[8]

Serbian military operations

If it comes to the NATO bombing, if it comes to the American aggression, we Serbs will quite suffer, but the Albanians in Kosovo will be no more.[9]
Vojislav Šešelj, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister
Ruins near Morina in the White Drin valley, at the border between Albania and Kosovo. Morina was attacked on 23/24 May 1998 by the Yugoslav Army.[10]

The Yugoslav Army and Serbian police were in spring 1999. in an organized manner, with significant use of state resources conducted a broad campaign of violence against Albanian civilians in order to expel them from Kosovo and thus maintain political control of Belgrade over the province.[5]

According to the legally binding verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, federal Army and Serbian police after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia 24 March 1999, systematically attacked villages with Albanian population, abused, robbed and killed civilians, ordering them to go to Albania or Montenegro, burning their houses and destroying by their property.[11] Within the campaign of violence, Albanians were mass expelled from their homes, murdered, sexually assaulted, and their religious buildings destroyed. Serbian forces committed numerous war crimes during the implementation of "joint criminal enterprise" whose aim was to "through the use of violence and terror, force a significant number of Kosovo Albanians to leave their homes, across the border, the state government to retain control over Kosovo."[5] Ethnic cleansing of the Albanian population is performed by the following model: first the army surrounded a place, then followed the shelling, then the police entered the village, and often with them and the army, and then crimes occurs (murders, rapes, beatings, expulsions...).[11]

Number of refugees

Brazda/Stenkovac I Refugee Assistance Centre in Macedonia. At its height this Centre housed over 50,000 refugees.[12]

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, by March 1999 (prior to NATO bombing), more than 200,000 Albanian civilians were internally displaced, almost 70,000 Albanians had fled the province to neighboring countries and Montenegro, and a further 100,000 Yugoslav nationals, mostly Kosovar Albanians, had sought asylum in Western Europe.[13] Also, thousands of ethnic Albanian villages in Kosovo had been partially or completely destroyed by burning or shelling.[14]

Within three weeks of the start of NATO strategic bombing during the Kosovo War, there were 525,787 refugees from Kosovo in neighboring countries.[15] A month later, on May 12, the total number of refugees had risen to 781,618.[16] By June 1999, the Yugoslav military, Serbian police and paramilitaries expelled 862,979 Albanians from Kosovo[17], and several hundred thousand more were internally displaced, in addition to those displaced prior to March.[18]

By early June 1999, more than 80 percent of the entire population of Kosovo and 90 percent of Kosovar Albanians were displaced from their homes.[18] Approximately 440,000 refugees crossed the border to Albania and 320,000 to FYR Macedonia. Montenegro hosted around 70,000 refugees, while Bosnia and Herzegovina received more than 30,000.[18]

War crime trials

The forces of the FRY and Serbia, have in a systematic manner, forcibly expelled and internally displaced hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians from their homes across the entire province of Kosovo. To facilitate these expulsions and displacements, the forces of the FRY and Serbia have intentionally created an atmosphere of fear and oppression through the use of force, threats of force, and acts of violence.[19]

War Crimes Indictment against Milosevic and others

Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy was imposing sentence said that "deliberate actions of these forces during the campaign provoked the departure of at least 700,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo in the short period from late March to early June 1999."[5]


Noam Chomsky stated that "The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees registered the first refugees outside Kosovo on 27 March ..., three days after the [NATO] bombings began"[20].

The existence of the Horseshoe plan was immediately denied by the Yugoslav and Serbian governments, and remains controversial to this day. It was denied by Yugoslav President Milošević as a "fabrication of the German Defence Ministry"[21]. Slobodan Milosevic has denied a policy of ethnic cleansing during the NATO bombing in Kosovo:

There was never a policy of this country and my policy to expel any citizen of Yugoslavia from any part of this country. I believe that when aggression stops, when bombing stops, then it will be very easy to continue (the) political process.[22]

Ratomir Tanić, a witness at Milošević's subsequent war crimes trial, said of it:

[Horseshoe] was a colloquial nickname for a completely different plan ... when the term was used first, I really can't say, especially as it was the colloquial term applied and not an official one.

It was an exercise plan of the Yugoslav army while it was the JNA, the Yugoslav People's Army, and the plan provided for training and exercise in case of an aggression on Yugoslavia from south-east Europe, and if the Albanian population should take the side of the foreign aggressor, then it would come into force. The army of Yugoslavia would come into force if these two conditions were met. They would take seven defensive positions and they would be geared towards neutralising the Albanian strongholds, and this exercise – this plan was actually stored in an archive and then it was reactivated and would be reactivated with all the rest for taking action in Kosovo.

[The army leadership] didn't want to use the plan at all [during the Kosovo War], because there was no external aggression or Albanian rebellion, or rather, that they should take the part and go to the side of the foreign aggressor, because it didn't exist.[23]

In April 2000, Heinz Loquai, a retired German brigadier general, published a book on the war that claimed that the plan was fabricated from Bulgarian intelligence reports[4]. The German news weekly Die Woche reported that the German government's account had been based on a general analysis by a Bulgarian intelligence agency of Yugoslav behaviour in the war, which was turned into a specific "plan" by the German Defence Ministry, which had itself coined the name Horseshoe. According to Loquai, the Bulgarian analysis concluded that the goal of the Serbian military was to destroy the Kosovo Liberation Army, and not to expel the entire Albanian population. He also pointed to a factual flaw in the German government's presentation – it had named the plan "Potkova", which is the Croatian word for horseshoe, whereas the Serbian for horseshoe is potkovica [4].

Although it remains unclear whether the name "Operation Horseshoe" was ever used for a Yugoslav military operation, a postwar statistical analysis of the patterns of displacement, conducted by Patrick Ball of the American Association for the Advancement of Science[24], argued that there was a direct correlation between Yugoslav security force operations and refugee outflows, with NATO operations having very little effect on the displacements.

We conclude that, regardless of the accuracy of reports of "Operation Horseshoe," there were orchestrated elements to the campaign of expulsions, which could be described as a plan. Outside observers could have been aware of this plan as it would have required significant preparation. We also conclude that the withdrawal of OSCE monitors together with the international media and the start of NATO's bombing campaign encouraged Milosevic to implement this plan.[25]
— UK Committee on Foreign Affairs Report

See also


  1. ^ a b Milosevic and Operation Horseshoe, The Guardian, July 18, 1999
  2. ^ The Balkans in the new millennium: in the shadow of war and peace‎, by Tom Gallagher
  3. ^ War since 1945, by Jeremy Black
  4. ^ a b c Heinz Loquai: Der Kosovo-Konflikt. Wege in einen vermeidbaren Krieg. Die Zeit von Ende November 1997 bis März 1999 (in German). Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2000, ISBN 3789066818.
  5. ^ a b c d The verdict of the Hague Tribunal (serbian)
  6. ^ "To will the end", The Times, London, April 8, 1999
  7. ^ "Milosevic and Operation Horseshoe", The Observer, July 18, 1999
  8. ^ Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fourth Report, 23 May 2000
  9. ^ Šešelj: Karijera pretnji i uvreda
  10. ^ Kosovo Chronology: From 1997 to the end of the conflict
  11. ^ a b Presude "kosovskoj šestorki" (dobavljeno 28.12.2009.)
  12. ^ KFOR Pictures - Refugees
  13. ^ UNHCR Press Briefing Note: Kosovo, Tuesday, February 2, 1999.
  14. ^ UNHCR Pristina,"IDP/Shelter Survey Kosovo: Joint Assessment in 20 Municipalities," November 12, 1998.
  15. ^ UNHCR Press Briefing Note: Kosovo, April 13, 1999.
  16. ^ UNHCR Press Briefing Note: Kosovo, May 13, 1999.
  17. ^ Statistic from: "The Kosovo refugee crisis: an independent evaluation of UNHCR's emergency preparedness and response," UNHCR Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, February 2000.
  18. ^ a b c Under Orders: War Crimes in Kosovo (Human Right Watch report)
  19. ^ Indictment against Milosevic and others
  20. ^ Is this really a grand NATO victory?, Noam Chomsky, New Statesman, June 14, 1999
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ Milosevic denies ethnic cleansing
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ Cooperative Analysis of Aspects of the Kosova/Kosovo Conflict
  25. ^ Operation Horseshoe (Committee on Foreign Affairs Report)
  • ddpADN news agency, Berlin, 6 April 1999 (in German)
  • "To will the end" – The Times, London, 8 April 1999
  • "Serbian ethnic cleansing scare was a fake, says general" – Sunday Times, London, 2 April 2000
  • Heinz Loquai: Der Kosovo-Konflikt. Wege in einen vermeidbaren Krieg. Die Zeit von Ende November 1997 bis März 1999 (in German). Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2000, ISBN 3789066818.

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address