After the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, due to Albanian ethnic attacks, some 150,000-200,000 Serbs and Roma people left province of Kosovo immediately after the war. The remaining Serbs were organized into enclaves, which, although under the protection of KFOR, have been frequently exposed to Albanian attacks. The reported number of attacks on property, abductions, kidnappings, harassments and murders was high.
Ethnic Violence in Kosovo and Metohija in 2004
On March 17, 2004 violent riots broke out in Kosovo and Metohija. In two days of the conflict between the Albanian and Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija, 28 people were killed, hundreds injured. A UN spokeswoman declared that 110 houses and 30 churches were destroyed.
In an urgent appeal, issued on 18 March by the extraordinary session of the Expanded Convocation of the Holy Synod of Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), it was reported that a number of Serbian churches and shrines in Kosovo had been damaged or destroyed by rioters. At least 30 sites were completely destroyed, more or less destroyed, or further destroyed (sites that had been previously destroyed). Apart from the churches and monasteries, tens of support buildings (such as parish buildings, economical buildings and residences), bringing the number close to 100 buildings of the SPC destroyed. All churches and objects of the SPC in Prizren were destroyed. The list includes several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The violence quickly spread to other parts of Kosovo, with Kosovo Serb communities and religious and cultural symbols attacked by crowds of Albanians. Some of these locations were ostensibly under the protection of KFOR at the time. During the riots and violence, eight Kosovo Serbians were killed, and 35 Serbian churches, including 18 monuments of culture, were demolished, burnt or severely damaged.
Cultural Heritage Destroyed
Between the arrival of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) in June 1999 and the 2004 unrest in Kosovo, more than 140 holy sites were destroyed. According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, 155 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were destroyed by Kosovo Albanians between June 1999 and March 2004. Karima Bennoune, United Nations special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, referred to the many reports of widespread attacks against churches committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army. In 2014, John Clint Williamson announced EU Special Investigative Task Force’s investigative findings and he indicated that a certain element of the KLA following the conclusion of the war (June 1999) intentionally targeted minority populations with acts of persecution that also included desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites. Fabio Maniscalco, an Italian archaeologist, specialist about the protection of cultural property, described that KLA members seized icons and liturgical ornaments as they ransacked and that they proceeded to destroy Christian Orthodox churches and monasteries with mortar bombs after the arrival of KFOR.