The Battle of Košare was fought during the Kosovo War between the military forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on one side and the Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK / KLA) and NATO forces on the other. The battle was fought around Rasa Koshares on the border between FR Yugoslavia and Albania from 9 April until 10 June during the NATO bombing of FR Yugoslavia. The April 12 is remembered as the day of the most fierce fighting.

Photo from: slobodanjovanovic.org
Photo from: slobodanjovanovic.org

The point of the 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 Kosovo Liberation Army from advancing into Kosovo. UÇK insurgents managed to take the Košare outpost following a massive artillery barrage by the Albanian Army and NATO bombardment of strategic sites held by the Yugoslavs, but they failed to complete any of their strategic objectives and failed to drive the Yugoslav forces out of the area.

FRY Special Forces
FRY Special Forces

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 Koshares, the second was towards the well-defended Košare outpost and the third was towards Maja Glava. During the artillery bombardment, approximately 1,500 UÇK militants, supported with members of NATO special forces (SAS and Italian mostly), reached the border without being spotted. At the time less than 160 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 UÇK seized the peak of Rasa Koshares and immediately began entrenching themselves.

Photo from: militaryphotos.net
Photo from: militaryphotos.net

The battle continued all night until the next morning. Then, with massive artillery support, the UÇK 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 UÇK entered the abandoned outpost and CNN and the British BBC broadcast images of a great number of UÇK militants taking the outpost.

Members of the Yugoslav Army 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 UÇK soldiers managed to cut the Yugoslav Army line of communications, and managed to damage one BOV vehicle.

During the night, the UÇK 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 UÇK soldiers.

The next day, the UÇK 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.

160 regular troops vs 2000 UÇK, SAS, Italian Special Forces and Albanian army

At start of the battle, on the side of FRY Army were 160 people defending Koshares, members of FRY regular army, armed only with light assault weapons. From Albania, around 2000 people (UÇK, Albanian Army, UK Special Forces, Italian Special Forces) with support of heavy artillery, NATO warplanes, and around 10 tanks of Albanian Army started assault on April 9.

The total number of involved troops on the side of FRY Army was around 1,000 people, majority from FRY regular and reserve troops, FRY Special Forces and volunteers from Russia (Cossacks and others) under command of Vitali Bulykin (killed in action). On the side of FRY were also 30 international volunteers from Sweden, Finland, France, Ukraine and Scotland.

Around 108 were killed in action (18 officers, 63 regular army troops, 24 volunteers of FRY Army) and 3 volunteers from Russia. Around 40 people were wounded.

The total number of NATO controlled ground forces were 6,000 men, mostly UÇK, Albanian regular army and special forces units from NATO countries, supported with unknown number of aircrafts and heavy artillery weapons from Albanian side. Artillery was controlled by French and Italian forces. Majority of air assaults were done by US and Italian Air Force. The logistics for the assault was done by German army. Training of UÇK soldiers before the attack was done by US, German and Italian instructors.

According to UÇK, they had 91 killed in action, and 67 killed by NATO friendly fire. There are no known reports about NATO losses except two A-10 Thunderbolt aircrafts shot down.

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 UÇK was, under the terms of the Kumanovo Treaty, disarmed and disbanded, however some of its members left Kosovo to fight for an Albanian insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia and southeastern Serbia.

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