The tiny, ethnic Albanian-majority province of Kosovo lived in peace within the Slavic-dominated government of Yugoslavia for many years after WWII. But, when Serbian president Slobadan Milosevic began a crackdown on the province in 1989, this peace and the defacto self-rule that allowed it was replaced by ten years of repression, discrimination, and police brutality against ethnic Albanians by Yugoslav Serbs.

By the late 90s, Yugoslav Army and special police units were carrying out a military offensive in Kosovo in which civilians were the primary victims. Yugoslav government troops committed extrajudicial executions, systematically destroyed civilian property, and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

In response, the ethnic Albanians formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Hopelessly outmanned and outgunned, this rebel force attempted to protect ethnic Albanians from the most egregious attacks while carrying out guerilla raids against Yugoslav troops. World attention was mostly muted until December 1998, when 46 civilians in the tiny village of Racak were brutally slaughtered by Yugoslav paramilitary troops. International outrage followed, leading a few months later to the NATO bombing campaign that eventually ousted Serbian forces from Kosovo altogetheróbut not before they expunged nearly a million ethnic Albanians into neighboring countries.

Kosovo Albanian men carry into a mosque one of 46 villagers who were massacred in the Kosovo village of Racak in December, 1998. The brutal slayings by a Serbian paramilitary group provoked world outrage and became the turning point the conflict.


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