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Massacre in Racak

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Racak[?] is a small ethnic Abanian village in Kosovo that by 1998 had become a local center for KLA activity. On January 15, 1999 a joint force of Yugoslav Police and Yugoslav Military entered the town, a mopping up operation near the end of the KLA insurrection.

The operation was preceded in December 1998 by shelling of the town by Yugoslav forces, and all law-abiding citizens had been ordered to evacuate: at the time of the joint operation the population consisted of KLA members, supporters, and family; and of those too stubborn to quit their homes.

With the insurrection defeated and their forces repressed, the KLA was reduced to night-time sorties to plant car-bombs and ambush the unwary. Their targets were a combination of local Police and Albanians who were not sympathetic to their methods.

Their are four depictions of the event of January 15 which must be contrasted:

  1. Village Albanians (their testimony possibly organized by the KLA) unanimously testified that the Army had entered a peaceful village, separated the women and children from the men, took the men up on the hill and shot them. This is the version accepted by the OSCE and was used to justify the Kosovo War.
  2. The joint command invited the Associated Press to film the operation. According to the European press, the film shows “It was in fact an empty village that the police entered in the morning, sticking close to the walls. The shooting was intense, as they were fired on from UCK trenches dug into the hillside.

    The fighting intensified sharply on the hilltops above the village. Watching from below, next to the mosque, the AP journalists understood that the UCK guerrillas, encircled, were trying desperately to break out. A score of them in fact succeeded, as the police themselves admitted.”

    Also: “At 3 p.m., a police communique reached the international press center in Pristina announcing that 15 UCK "terrorists" had been killed in combat in Racak and that a large stock of weapons had been seized.

    At 3:30 p.m., the police forces, followed by the AP TV team, left the village, carrying with them a heavy 12.7 mm machine gun, two automatic rifles, two rifles with telescopic sights and some thirty Chinese-made kalashnikovs.

    At 4:40 p.m., a French journalist drove through the village and met three orange OSCE vehicles. The international observers were chatting calmly with three middle-aged Albanians in civilian clothes. They were looking for eventual civilian casualties.”

  3. Human Rights Watch interviews conducted on January 16 described an entire family attempting to sneak away from their family compound during the fighting, carrying a motley assortment of household belongings. They clung to the bottoms of ravines until they were near a woods, and then they leapt from the ravine and sprinted towards the woods. Unfortunately they emerged near to and sprinted directly towards several units of the Yugoslav army positioned to prevent KLA members from attempting the same mistake, and were gunned down before there was any possibility of identifying them or that they were mostly unarmed.
  4. At 9:00 AM January 16 journalists discovered 45 Albanian corpses in a ditch overlooking the village. By this time the KLA was again in control of the village (the Yugoslav forces having moved on). The Chief OSCE observer, William Walker[?], arrived soon after and described the scene as “the most horrendous” massacre he had ever seen.

Given the various political pressures to deceive in different ways about the sequence of events, we may never know exactly what happened in Racak[?], however it is likely that the narrative put together from the reports of Journalists on the scene and the initial Human Rights Watch interviews give the most accurate picture:

The Yugoslav joint force entered a mostly abandoned Racak[?] shortly after dawn, and came under fire from heavy machine gun emplacements and mortars. During the fighting an entire family attempting to flee accidentally charged an Army unit and were killed.

If the above capsule narrative were accurate, this would call into question the objectivity of the OSCE report of the event. A possible explanation for this is found in the following two observations:

  1. Reports compiled by investigations conducted by the Congress of the United States state that the decision to invade Kosovo was taken in 1998, and awaited a “pretext” to “pull the trigger”.
  2. William Walker[?] is a United States civil-servant best known as an apologist for United States-backed death squads in El Salvador (“Management control problems can exist in these kinds of situations” was his response to the assassination of six Jesuit priests and their servants.) He personally managed a phony humanitarian organization organized to deliver weapons to the Contras. It is likely that he has never been a per se diplomat but is in fact an agent of United States intelligence.

Foreign media articles on the event itself and the related forensic reports:

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