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Panda Bar massacre

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Panda Bar massacre
LocationPeć, Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, FR Yugoslavia
(present-day Kosovo[a])
Date14 December 1998 (UTC+1)
TargetSerb civilians
WeaponsAutomatic rifles
Deaths6
Injured15
PerpetratorsSerbian Secret Service

The Panda Bar massacre[1] alternatively known as the Panda Café attack (Serbian: напад на кафић „Панда”)[2] was a false flag attack on Serbian civilians in the city of Peć in north-western Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, now Kosovo[a] on the night of 14–15 December 1998. Two masked men opened fire into a coffee bar,[3] killing six Serb youths, and wounding 15 others.[4][5]

The attack came at a time of heightened tensions, when on 14 December the Serbian police ambushed the KLA who were smuggling weapons and supplies from Albania.[6] The Panda Bar attack appeared as a reprisal,[6] and broke the brief cease-fire between the Albanian and Serbian forces during the Kosovo War.[7] The KLA was accused, but did not accept responsibility at the time.[6] Six Albanian young men were arrested and tortured in custody at the time, but acquitted in the trial.

Speculation that the crime may have been committed by the Serbian state security services had been put forward in the past, but the crime remained unsolved as no new evidence had come forward for a long time.[8] Many years after the incident, the Serbian government officially acknowledged that it was perpetrated by agents of the Serbian Secret Service.[9] Among Kosovo Albanians, the Panda Bar massacre is considered to have been used as a pretext for the attacks of the Serbian army and police against Albanian villages.[8]

Discover more about Panda Bar massacre related topics

Serbian language

Serbian language

Serbian is the standardized variety of the Serbo-Croatian language mainly used by Serbs. It is the official and national language of Serbia, one of the three official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina and co-official in Montenegro and Kosovo. It is a recognized minority language in Croatia, North Macedonia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

False flag

False flag

A false flag operation is an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning blame on another party. The term "false flag" originated in the 16th century as an expression meaning an intentional misrepresentation of someone's allegiance. The term was famously used to describe a ruse in naval warfare whereby a vessel flew the flag of a neutral or enemy country in order to hide its true identity. The tactic was originally used by pirates and privateers to deceive other ships into allowing them to move closer before attacking them. It later was deemed an acceptable practice during naval warfare according to international maritime laws, provided the attacking vessel displayed its true flag once an attack had begun.

Civilian

Civilian

Civilians under international humanitarian law are "persons who are not members of the armed forces" and they are not "combatants if they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war". It is slightly different from a non-combatant, because some non-combatants are not civilians. Civilians in the territories of a party to an armed conflict are entitled to certain privileges under the customary laws of war and international treaties such as the Fourth Geneva Convention. The privileges that they enjoy under international law depends on whether the conflict is an internal one or an international one.

Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija

Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija

The Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohia, commonly known as Kosovo and abbreviated to Kosmet or KiM, is an autonomous province defined by the constitution of Serbia that occupies the southernmost part of Serbia. The territory is the subject of an ongoing political and territorial dispute between Serbia and the partially recognised, self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo, the latter of which has control over the region. Its claimed administrative capital and largest city is Prishtina.

Kosovo War

Kosovo War

The Kosovo War was an armed conflict in Kosovo that started 28 February 1998 and lasted until 11 June 1999. It was fought by the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which controlled Kosovo before the war, and the Kosovo Albanian rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The conflict ended when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervened by beginning air strikes in March 1999 which resulted in Yugoslav forces withdrawing from Kosovo.

Timeline

The attack on the Panda Bar came within hours of a border ambush in which at least 31 fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army were killed by Serbian troops.[10] That evening, suspected KLA gunmen entered a Serb-owned café in Peja and opened fire on the patrons, killing six Serb youths.[11] The victims were a 14-year-old, a 16-year-old, three 17-year-olds and one 25-year-old.[b] Western diplomats suspected that the attack was carried out by the KLA in retribution for the ambush.[12] The KLA denied responsibility; journalist Tim Judah noted that some of the diplomats thought the attack might have been carried out by a rogue unit.[13]

The shooting appalled foreign emissaries, and at a meeting with Milošević the following day, Holbrooke condemned it as an act of terrorism and described the situation in Kosovo as "very grave". Milošević issued a separate statement accusing the international community of failing to prevent attacks on Serb civilians, stating: "The terrorist gangs have not ceased attacking the army, the police, and inhabitants of Kosovo."[14]

The attack led to an immediate crackdown on the Albanian-populated southern quarters of Peja – Kapešnica and Zatra.[15] The area was sealed off, and houses were searched systematically.[15] Media reports stated that Serbian police killed two Kosovo Albanians during the operation.[15] The OSCE later made a report on the event and its aftermath, calling it the Panda Bar incident.[16]

Six young Albanians were arrested and found guilty of the crime in the aftermath of the event. They were between the ages of 17 to 22. The six men were tortured and one of them confessed to the murder under torture. In the trial they were acquitted as no evidence existed about their involvement. They were convicted to one year in prison each for breaching public order, but were released a month later.[8][17] Since then, one of them has developed mental health problems which have deteriorated over time. Another one went to become a finance officer at the municipality of Peja.[8]

Discover more about Timeline related topics

Ambush

Ambush

An ambush is a long-established military tactic in which a combatant uses an advantage of concealment or the element of surprise to attack unsuspecting enemy combatants from concealed positions, such as among dense underbrush or behind mountaintops. Ambushes have been used consistently throughout history, from ancient to modern warfare. In the 20th century, an ambush might involve thousands of soldiers on a large scale, such as over a choke point such as a mountain pass, or a small irregulars band or insurgent group attacking a regular armed force patrols. Theoretically, a single well-armed and concealed soldier could ambush other troops in a surprise attack. Sometimes an ambush can involve the exclusive or combined use of improvised explosive devices, that allow the attackers to hit enemy convoys or patrols while minimizing the risk of being exposed to return fire.

Kosovo Liberation Army

Kosovo Liberation Army

The Kosovo Liberation Army was an ethnic Albanian separatist militia that sought the separation of Kosovo, the vast majority of which is inhabited by Albanians, from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and Serbia during the 1990s. Albanian nationalism was a central tenet of the KLA and many in its ranks supported the creation of a Greater Albania, which would encompass all Albanians in the Balkans, stressing Albanian culture, ethnicity and nation. Throughout its existence the KLA was designated as a terrorist group by FRY.

Mass shooting

Mass shooting

A mass shooting is a crime in which an attacker kills or injures multiple individuals simultaneously using a firearm. There is a lack of consensus on what constitutes a mass shooting, but most definitions include a minimum of three or four victims of gun violence, not including the shooter, in a short period of time. Definitions of mass shootings exclude warfare and often exclude instances of gang violence, armed robberies, and familicides.

Tim Judah

Tim Judah

Tim Judah is a British writer, reporter and political analyst for The Economist. Judah has written several books on the geopolitics of the Balkans, mainly focusing on Serbia and Kosovo.

Terrorism in Europe

Terrorism in Europe

There is a long history of terrorism in Europe. This has often been linked to nationalist and separatist movements, while other acts have been related to politics, religious extremism, or organized crime. Terrorism in the European sections of the intercontinental countries of Turkey and Russia are not included in this list.

Kosovo Albanians

Kosovo Albanians

The Albanians of Kosovo, also commonly called Kosovo Albanians, Kosovar/Kosovan Albanians or Kosovars/Kosovans, constitute the largest ethnic group in Kosovo.

Peja

Peja

Peja or Peć is the fourth largest city of Kosovo and seat of Peja Municipality and Peja District. It is situated in the region of Rugova on the eastern section of the Accursed Mountains along Peja's Lumbardh in the western part of Kosovo.

Investigation

After the massacre, six Albanian young men were rounded by Serbian troops and arrested, and tortured in custody.[8] They were all acquitted in a trial.[8]

An investigation was started in 2011.[18] The grave stones of the victims have been destroyed.[19]

In December 2013, Aleksandar Vučić (now President of Serbia) acknowledged that there is no evidence that murder was committed by Albanians.[20] The Serbian Organised Crime Prosecutor's Office launched a new investigation in 2016 and reached the conclusion that the massacre was not perpetrated by Albanians.[8]

Many years after the incident, the Serbian government officially acknowledged that it was perpetrated by agents of the Serbian Secret Service.[21]

Source: "Panda Bar massacre", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 25th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panda_Bar_massacre.

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Annotations
  1. ^
    The political status of Kosovo is disputed. Having unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo is formally recognised as an independent state by 101 UN member states (with another 13 states recognising it at some point but then withdrawing their recognition) and 92 states not recognizing it, while Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own territory.
  2. ^
    The victims were Ivan Obadović (14 years old), Vukota Gvozdenović (16), Svetislav Ristić (17), Zoran Stanojević (17), Dragan Trifović (17) and university student Ivan Radević (25).[19] Gvozdenović, Ristić, Stanojević and Trifović were highly graded students of the Sveti Sava gymnasium in Peć.[18] The father of Radević was a half year later kidnapped and murdered by Albanians.[18]
References
  1. ^ Landis & Albert 2012, p. 356, Aertsen et al. 2013, p. 83
  2. ^ NIN: nedeljne informativne novine. Politika. March 2007.
  3. ^ Aertsen et al. 2013, p. 83.
  4. ^ Holbrooke and Hill.
  5. ^ Kosovo: the road to war Archived October 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c Bellamy 2002, p. 112.
  7. ^ Landis & Albert 2012, p. 356.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Rudic, Filip; Haxhiaj, Rexhepe (2018). "Kosovo's Panda Café Massacre Mystery Unsolved 20 Years On".
  9. ^ Everts, Daan (2020). Peacekeeping in Albania and Kosovo: Conflict Response and International Intervention in the Western Balkans, 1997 - 2002. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 978-1838604493. In mid-December six young Kosovo Serbs were killed, and about a dozen wounded, in the Panda bar in Peja. The murder caused outrage all around, with the KLA getting all the blame. Many years later, the Serbian government officially acknowledged that the murder had been perpetrated by agents of the Serbian Secret Service.
  10. ^ "Serb murder in Kosovo condemned". BBC. December 18, 1998. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  11. ^ Judah 2002, p. 191.
  12. ^ Guy Dinmore (December 15, 1998). "Kosovo Cease-fire Is Jeopardized By Killing Of 30 Rebels". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  13. ^ Judah 2002, p. 192.
  14. ^ "Grave differences over Kosovo". BBC. December 16, 1998. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  15. ^ a b c "Human Rights in Kosovo: As Seen, As Told, 1999". OSCE report. OSCE. Archived from the original on 2014-10-15.
  16. ^ "OSCE report" (PDF). OSCE. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-14. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ KTV Lajmet. KTV. 22 January 2014. Archived from the original on 22 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  18. ^ a b c Novosti; Tanjug; Blic.
  19. ^ a b Politika 13 December 2008.
  20. ^ "State killed journalist, says deputy PM". B92. 2013.
  21. ^ Everts, Daan (2020). Peacekeeping in Albania and Kosovo: Conflict Response and International Intervention in the Western Balkans, 1997 - 2002. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 978-1838604493. In mid-December six young Kosovo Serbs were killed, and about a dozen wounded, in the Panda bar in Peja. The murder caused outrage all around, with the KLA getting all the blame. Many years later, the Serbian government officially acknowledged that the murder had been perpetrated by agents of the Serbian Secret Service.
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