Serbians and Albanians have clashed in the mountains and valleys of what is now Kosovo since the fourteenth century. In 1998, the Kosovo Liberation Army of ethnic Albanian fighters openly fought Serbian police and faced retaliation from Serbian military and paramilitary forces. Ethnic Albanians wanted autonomy and freedom from a Serbian government they thought was as bad or worse than the communist regime.
Paramilitary troops responded with more violence and drove families from their homes. Worldwide news organizations started reporting on refugees fleeing to the Albanian and Macedonian borders.