Command for Kosovo and Metohija issued the ‘Order to provide assistance to the
MUP in crushing and destroying STS in the Orahovac, Suva Reka, and V. Kruša
areas’ to the units of the Priština Corps on March 23rd, 1999 in which the
549th MtBr was tasked to ‘crush and destroy STS in the area of the villages
Celina, Velika Kruša, Mala Kruša, Pirane, Zojić, and Medvedce”.
On the basis of
this order from the Joint Command, the Commander of the 549th MtBr, Božidar
Delić issued the ‘Order on destroying STS in general area of the village of
Retimlje, lifting the blockade of the Suva Reka-Orahovac road and establishing
control of the territory’ on March 23rd, 1999. In the order he issued an
assignment to Combat Group 1 to cooperate with the 37th Detachment of the
Special Police Units and two platoons of MUP forces ‘to energetically attack
and destroy major individual targets using hardware to overpower and destroy
the STS in Mala Kruša, take control of the wine cellar and move on to
tt.382, and to destroy STS in the village of Pirane and the village of Zojić”.
In his testimony
in the Milutinović et al. case, Delić denied that his troops had entered
the village of Mala Kruša/Krushё e Vogёl on March 25th, 1999 saying that this
village was not on the route taken by his troops. However, he did accept that
MUP units passed through the village and unknown persons had opened fire at the
police. He stated that on March 26th, 1999 he was located some five or six
kilometres away from Mala Kruša /Krushё e Vogёl, but he denied that he had
heard that 105 Kosovo Albanians had been killed there on that day. The
‘Analysis of the operation of the 549th MtBr on destroying STS in the general
area of Retimlje and lifting of the blockade on the Suva Reka-Orahovac road’
from March 30th, 1999 signed by Delić, among others states: ‘The forces of
Combat Group 1, in a planned manner, took hold of the line: village of Zojić,
village of Pirane, 400 metres to the north, and from Mala Kruša made a breakthrough
up to the key facilities in front of Randubrava”.
Citizens of the
village were woken up at around 03:00 on March 25, 1999 by the noise made by
tanks, armoured vehicles, anti-aircraft guns and heavy artillery positioned along
the Prizren-Đakovica/Gjakovë road.
All of the
Kosovo Albanians left their houses and ran away into the forests located above
At dawn, the
tanks opened fire in the direction of the forest where citizens of the village
were hiding. Members of Serbian forces continued firing for one hour above the
heads of the villagers, in the direction of the forest. Then, members of Serb
forces started setting the village on fire. Members of the MUP took away
vehicles and tractors. Local Serbs participated in the attack alongside members
of the MUP and VJ.
most villagers went to S B. house in the village because the nights were cold and
they were not well dressed, and they spent the night there.
In the early
morning hours of March 26th Serbs from the village, with the help of MUP
officers, started shooting and broke into, and looted Kosovo Albanian houses
removing valuables, tractors, and cars. After removing all of the valuables,
they would set the houses on fire. During the morning, they also killed H.R. in
the village. As they were setting houses on fire, MUP members approached the B.
family compound. They took up positions in the house of M.B. Then they ordered A.Sh.
to gather the people who were still hiding in the forest, and bring them to the
village. After they had gathered all of the Kosovo Albanians by the main road in
the village, members of Serb forces separated the women and children from the
men. Boys, who were 13 years old and more, were ordered to join the group of
men. This group of men included older men, some 14 teenagers, two mentally challenged
men, and two paralyzed men – L. and S.H. One police officer in “black police uniform”
told the women to go to Albania. They went down the road towards the River
Drim. Four boys, brothers B. and L.B. and brothers V. and E.B., were separated
from their mothers as the convoy was leaving the village and then they were
detained with the rest of the men. Members of Serb forces detained 120 men and
boys, including 13-year-old M.S., 13 year-old Xh.Sh. and the 72-year-old uncle
of M. K., B.A. They searched all of them and confiscated their money and
personal documents. Police officers took them to the stable owned by Q. B.,
which consisted of two rooms and one hallway, and after they had pushed all of
them inside the stable – they opened fire without warning. One of eight
survivors, M.K. fell to the ground immediately and was covered by other bodies.
The shooting came from the window and lasted for several minutes. After this,
one police officer came in with a rifle and shot at anyone who raised their
head. When the shooting ceased, members of MUP threw hay over the bodies and
set it on fire. K. was still at the bottom of the pile of dead and wounded
people. He pulled himself out from the bottom of the pile of bodies and managed
to run away by jumping out of the side window. He ran to his uncle’s house, which
was right next to the stable, and he hid in the basement. K. later hid in the
forest where he stayed until midnight, watching the stable where the men were
killed. He stayed for a further two days in the forest as he was able to watch
what was happening in the village from this point and because MUP members were
still close by. The village was on fire for several days thereafter.
survivor, L R., was not wounded in the shooting, but the right side of his body
and his head were burned. He managed to escape through the door together with
two other men, B.Z. and ‘A.’. R. sons, B. (14) and A. (27), his brother M.R.
(54) and nephew S.R. (28) were among those killed. R. returned to Mala Kruša/Krushё
e Vogёl sometime around June 15th, 1999 and he saw that all of the houses of
Kosovo Albanians were burnt, while houses owned by Serbs and Roma were still in
a good condition. He went to the B. stable and saw that it had been destroyed
by explosive and levelled with a bulldozer. He found several burnt shoes,
sleeves and pieces of clothing.
* The description of the crime is based on testimonies of
survivors, eyewitnesses and victims' family members given to the Humanitarian
Law Center, national courts or the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia (ICTY); forensic reports; judgments and transcripts of trials;
media reports and other documents.