Ferocity of Kosovo Clashes Stuns All

by on March 22nd, 2004


This sight and smell of anarchy in the capital was illustrative of what was going on in the whole of Kosovo. The violence that was unleashed had a cathartic, bacchanalian feel about it, the extent of which nobody would have predicted even a day before. It spread like a contagious epidemic of madness to almost every town…

The initial trouble started on March 16 in Caglavica, five kilometres south of Pristina, where Serb villagers blockaded the highway from the Kosovo capital to Skopje in protest against a drive-by shooting of a local Serb, attacking Albanian-owned and KFOR vehicles and hurting several Albanians.

As news of ethnic violence in Mitrovica spread, by early afternoon on March 17 Albanians were pouring out of Pristina to attack the Caglavica Serbs as UN police struggled to contain the situation and KFOR remained in the background. A UN police officer at the scene said, “What can KFOR do? Only shoot people!”

An anti-UN mood rapidly built up in Pristina itself and the surrounding area. Driving in what looked like a UN car towards Caglavica we passed a group of children, one of whom shouted in English, ‘Fuck you” .

By late afternoon on March 17, UN police were struggling to contain the Albanian crowds trying to break into Caglavica. As nearby houses burned, police doused the mob with a water cannon and launched stun grenades. KFOR shot dead an Albanian who tried to ram his truck into their lines…

An anti-UN backlash has long been feared in Kosovo. But most expected the real trouble to come later this year, or in 2005, if the status of the territory was not settled in way that satisfied the Albanian majority. Its frenzied arrival over the last couple of days came as a shock and almost everyone has been taken by surprise by its ferocity.

Amy Phillips