(Unternehmen Prijedor / Akcija Prijedor)
By 1942, Partisan stronghold of Kozara mountain started to pose serious threat to surrounding Axis garrisons. Several attempts by NDH forces failed to pacify Kozara with Partisans destroying railroad Banja Luka - Bosanski Novi - Prijedor in several places making mission of the 923rd Landesschützen Battalion guarding nearby Ljubija iron mine pointless resulting in need to safely withdraw battalion as well as dozens of Volksdeutsche families living there to Bosanska Dubica 32 kilometers north of Prijedor.
In his instructions for operation 718th Division commander Johann Fortner ordered that entire male Serb population should be treated as if carrying weapons and all Serb villages should be torched once they were no longer needed for housing of German troops.
Germans begun their advance from Dubica on 17 February but already on 19 February, LtColonel Wutte reported that forces used were insufficient to carry out the mission. Partisans had few forces present from 2nd Krajina partisan detachment so on the first day only one section at Kruškovac stooped German advance. It was reinforced to platoon strength under command of Ljuban Aćimović and managed to hold Germans for two days and night forcing them to bring reinforcements. Partisan 2nd Company of the 2nd Battalion also arrived at the evening of the second day from action at Kozarac.
On third day from frontal combat Partisans switched to ambushes and flanking and rear attacks forcing Germans to sweep terrain along the road 6-8 kilometers in depth. Partisans made two very successful ambushes, first near church in village Uremovci killing entire German reconnaissance 15 soldiers strong and second in Brekinje by platoon under command of Milan Muharem.
German reinforcements were sent on 20 March while 718th division commander personally arrived to Dubica on 23 February and took over command of the operation. Forward elements of Wutte detachment arrived at Prijedor on 26 February around 19:30 while remaining forces took over security of Dubica - Prijedor road. 923rd Landesschützen Battalion was escorted by Wutte detachment to Dubica on 10 March 1942. Before retreating Germans set off central warehouses of Ljubija mine containing 50 000 kilograms of explosives besides demolishing mine installations.
By 23 February, general Bader sent changed order for captured rebels to be sent to Šabac concentration camp, later Zemun form where they would be sent as workforce but by this time most of the population has fled.
Commander of NDH garrison in Prijedor, colonel Mario Zlobec refused German offer to retreat with them which was approved by NDH command in Banja Luka.
Orders of Battle
- Axis order of battle
- 718th Infantry Division
- 1st and 2nd Battalion of the 750th Regiment
- 1st Battalion of the 724th Regiment from 704th Infantry Division
- Mountain gun platoon of the 688th Artillery Battalion
- Platoon of the 688th Artillery Battalion
- two platoons of the 718th Engineer Company
- Croatian 65mm mountain gun platoon
- reinforcements on 20 February
- 1st and 2nd Battalion of the 738th Regiment, major Anacker
- two batteries of the 688th Artillery Battalion, LtColonel Humell
- ustasha defense battalion from Jasenovac concentration camp, 2nd lt. Vjekoslav Ile
- NDH garrison in Prijedor while also offered to withdraw wasn't involved in the fightings
- 11th Home Defense Infantry Regiment, colonel Mario Zlobec
- Yugoslav partisans - 2nd Krajina Partisan detachment
- Day 1 - section at Kruškovac
- Day 2 - platoon at Kruškovac
- Day 2 evening - 2nd Company of the 2nd Battalion at Kruškovac and 2nd Company of the 1st Battalion at Grabovac
- German reported casualties
- 34 killed
- 48 wounded
- 15 missing
- 49 sick
- Partisan casualties claimed by Germans but these also include civilians shot in reprisals:
- 189 killed
- 13 wounded
- 16 captured
Also reported by 718th Division commander was confiscation of livestock:
- 53 horses
- 558 cattle
- 5 calf
- 235 sheep
- 1 goat
- 85 pigs
- 932 total
Partisans reported only a dozen casualties and claimed to have captured:
- 11 machine guns MG-34
- 110 rifles
- 6 submachine guns
- 12 pistols
German withdrawal was negatively received by Ustasha authorities, combat success against feared Germans have given Partisans additional morale boost and harsh German reprisals further fueled uprising in Kozara region increasing Partisan attacks on axis garrison.
This would culminate in Partisan attack on Prijedor on the night of 15/16 May 1942. Joint attack by 1st and 2nd Krajina Partisan detachment resulted in annihilation of the garrison with around 100 NDH soldiers killed including commander colonel Zlobec and around 1300 NDH soldiers taken prisoners.
- Dušan D. Samardžija: Bosanskodubičko područje u NOR-u i socijalističkoj revoluciji 1941-1945, 1984
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