The Battle for Novi Pazar was a battle between Chetniks on one side and Muslim and Albanian forces established on German occupied part of the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia in Sandžak and Kosovo. At the beginning of the Second World war territory of Sandžak was subject of territorial aspirations of all sides in the war. Muslims wanted this region to be annexed to Ustaše controlled Independent State of Croatia which pursued genocidal policy toward Serbs, Jews and Roma People. On the other hand, Germans designated it to be part of their occupation zone, Italians wanted to control all of Sandžak while Albanians wanted it to be annexed to their Greater Albania. The Chetniks and Partisans struggled to keep Sandžak within Yugoslavia. The position of Christian Serbs was additionally worsened. They were turned into second class citizens with obligations to pay feudal tributes to newly appointed Muslim aghas and beys. Some of them resisted to this kind of obligations. Muslims and Albanians burned Serb villages and killed and interned Serbs to punish them for resisting their feudal Muslim masters and also with intention to change the ethnic composition of the region of Novi Pazar and to annex it to Greater Albania. Chetniks burned Muslim populated villages and killed Muslims and decided to capture Novi Pazar. The Yugoslav Partisans initially agreed to participate in the attack together with Chetniks, but after one skirmish with Muslim forces they retreated to fill the gap left after retreat of Chetniks in the night between 3 and 4 November in the Battle of Kraljevo. The Chetnik struggle to capture Novi Pazar lasted in period between early November and early December 1941. Chetniks tried to capture Novi Pazar in three major attacks, but eventually failed. On the other hand, Muslim and Albanian forces tried to capture Raška and also failed. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. A number of villages were burnt with many civilians killed or interned.
Axis invasion of Yugoslavia
Axis invasion of Yugoslavia began on 6 April 1941. Within a couple of weeks Yugoslavia was overrun by Axis forces. German troops (60th Infantry Division and 8th Panzer Division captured Novi Pazar on 17 April 1941. On 23 April it was agreed that Novi Pazar will belong to the German occupation zone. On 20 May Germans replaced part of the units from the 60th Infantry Division with 704th and 717th divisions.
Uprisings in Montenegro and Serbia
The Uprising in Montenegro broke out in July 1941 and spread into Sandžak without proportionally affecting all of its territory. Until the end of August 1941 it actually did not affect large part of Sandžak occupied by Ustaše who were supported by German forces. To prevent spreading of the uprising the Italians used various irregular units of Muslims from Sandžak, Metohija and Kosovo to intimidate and expel Serbs who were considered as the main carriers of the uprising. In July 1941 different bands created complete anarchy in region of Rožaje, Plav, Gusinje, Tutin and Pešter.
The most sensitive situation was in the region of Novi Pazar where Serbs were returned into feudal position toward Muslim governors. At the end of July and beginning of August 1941 they spontaneously began resisting to feudal obligations toward their Muslim aghas and beys. On 27 October another agreement was made to divide Sandžak between Italy and Germans, but Novi Pazar remained in the German occupation zone and together with Kosovska Mitrovica and small part of the Sjenica municipality (Duga Poljana) established it as Kosovska Mitrovica district of the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia.
Many armed conflicts between Chetniks on one side and Albanian and Muslim forces on other occurred in period between October and December 1941. The front was established between Raška and Novi Pazar and on Rogozna mountain, toward Kosovska Mitrovica. The consequence of this, almost every days, conflicts was burning of many villages a number of refugees. In the town of Novi Pazar in the period between 22 June and December 1941 around 60 Serbs were killed, 144 Serb families interned and 2,016 Serb houses and 776 Muslim houses were burned.
On 23 September the Chetniks attacked Albanian forces on Rogozna and captured it after 24 hours battle. Occasional conflicts between Chetnks and Albanians in this region lasted until the end of September.
At the end of October Chetniks and Partisan Kopaonik detachment agreed to attack Novi Pazar together. According to their plan, Chetniks were to attack the town from the northern side while Partisans were to attack it from the southern side. According to Maliković, Chetniks approached to Partisan Kopaonik detachment and invited them to join them to capture Novi Pazar, but Partisans refused to accept this invitation.
Germans followed their strategy to protect only points of vital importance during the uprising in Serbia. To protect the lead mine they moved their forces from Novi Pazar to Kosovska Mitrovica on 4 October. Germans armed units of Albanian Gendarmerie was left to protect the town. In period between 5 October and 7 December 1941 (when German forces returned to Novi Pazar) all Serbs in the town were forbidden to leave the town according to the order of Hadžiahmetović, in order to prevent them to join Chetniks or to inform them about the forces in the town.
On 7 October the first group of Albanian forces commanded by Šaban Poluža came to Novi Pazar. Hadžiahmetović emphasized that this group turned Serb populated Ibarski Kolašin into dust and ash. In October 1941 the total number of Albanian forces that came to Novi Pazar was around 500. Around 100 Muslim forces from Tutin and Sjenica with forces of Biko Drešević also came to defend Novi Pazar.
Early November attack on Novi Pazar
According to the agreed plan, two companies of the Kopaonik Partisan detachment under command of Sveta Trifunović took control over the road between Novi Pazar and Kosovska Mitrovica to prevent armed Albanian forces to use this road to reach the town. One Chetnik detachment joined them and burned some Muslim houses. Tomorrow, Muslim forces from Novi Pazar attacked Serb houses in Trnava and began to burn them. Partisans attacked them and forced them to retreat to Novi Pazar. Because of the split between Chetniks and Partisans Chetniks left their positions at joint Chetnik—Partisan front at Kraljevo in the night between 3 and 4 November. This had direct consequence to Chetnik-Partisan cooperation at Novi Pazar where Partisan forces left their positions to fill the gap at Kraljevo.
Chetniks attacked the town on 4 November at 4 a.m. They managed to advance toward the town until 7 a.m. when the rear flanks of one Chetnik unit were attacked by Muslim forces under command of Biko Drešović, Džemail Koničanin and Mullah Jakup. This caused dismay of this Chetnik unit which retreated from already captured positions. Muslim forces regrouped and pushed back the Chetnik forces who advanced on the another part of front (Petrova Crkva — Đurđevi Stupovi — Parničko brdo — Vidovo). The Chetnik casualties were 83 killed and 48 wounded, while defending forces had 60 killed and 23 wounded.
The defenders' success in the battle was celebrated in Novi Pazar, people waved Albanian flags and shouted glorifying Greater Albania. Armed bands killed dozens of Serbs in Novi Pazar in only a couple of hours. Drešović's men carried cut off heads stuck on the bayonets of their rifles and threw them on the garbage. To prevent further killings Mulla Jakub proposed to imprison all Serbs older than 18 years. Ahmetović accepted this proposal with intention to use imprisoned Serbs as hostages in the future negotiations with Chetniks.
Attack on Raška
To provide additional forces, arms and ammunition Hadžiahmetović sent his men to neighboring regions of Yugoslavia annexed to Albania and Italy. Within a couple of days additional forces came to Novi Pazar, mostly from Kosovo, so the total number of armed men in Novi Pazar on 10 November 1941 was around 3,150. A number of guns, machine guns and ammunition was also brought into the town. This encouraged Hadžiahmetović to try to expand borders of the Greater Albania by capturing Chetnik controlled Raška. To buy some time Hadžiahmetović concluded peace agreement with Chetniks on 10 November 1941. According to this agreement Muslims guaranteed safety to Serbs while Chetniks guaranteed safety to Muslims who lived on the territory under their control. During next couple of days additional Albanian and Muslim forces arrived to Novi Pazar. On 14 November Hadžiahmetović had around 5,000 armed men and made decision to attack Raška and burn all Serb villages in the region. On 15 November his forces began with burning of numerous Serb villages and killed many people. On 16 November at 10 a.m. Muslim and Albanian forces attacked Raška. They quickly advanced toward the town. The situation for the defenders became very difficult, so Vojislav Lukačević, the person of the biggest confidence of Mihailović, personally engaged in the defence of the town. Villagers from burned villages rallied and joined the defenders. On 17 November they stopped the advance of Hadžiahmetović's forces and forced them to retreat. Attackers had 106 killed men while defenders had 34 killed men, without people killed during burning of the vatiillages.
Late November and early December attacks on Novi Pazar
Chetniks attacked Novi Pazar on 21 November 1941. Vojislav Lukačević, one of the closest associates of Draža Mihailović, participated in this attack. During this attack Chetniks burned all Muslim villages from Požega to Vučinići. Chetniks failed to capture Novi Pazar and retreated suffering casualties of 42 killed men, while defenders had 26 killed. Both sides had around 45 wounded. On 5 December the last Chetnik attempt to capture Novi Pazar failed. Based on the false information that communists captured some parts of Novi Pazar, German forces returned to the town on 7 December 1941.
The epilogue of struggle between Chetniks and Muslim and Albanian forces in the region of Novi Pazar was 447 killed people (287 Serbs, 136 Muslims and 144 Albanians). The victims of terror of the conflicting parties were 115 Serbs and 61 Muslims.
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