Anti partisan operation Prijedor
By 1942, a Partisan stronghold of Kozara mountain started to pose a 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.
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 Hummell
- 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 fighting
- 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
In his instructions for operation, the 718th Division Commander Johann Fortner ordered that whole male Serb population should be treated as if carrying weapons and all Serb villages should be burned once they were no longer needed for housing German troops.
Germans began their advance from Dubica on 17 February but already on February 19, Lt Colonel Wutte reported that the forces used were insufficient to carry out the mission. The Partisans had few forces present from the 2nd Krajina partisan detachment and on the first day, only one section at Kruškovac had taken German advance. It was reinforced to the platoon strength under the command of Ljuban Acimovic and managed to hold the Germans for two days and night forcing them to bring reinforcements. Partisan 2nd Company of the 2nd Battalion also arrived on the evening of the second day of action at Kozarac.
On the third day of 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 the church in the village of Uremovci, killing all German reconnaissance 15 soldiers strong and second in Brekinje by a plate under the command of Milan Muharem.
|718. Division later 118th Jäger Division.|
German reinforcements were sent on 20 March while the 718th division commander personally arrived at Dubica on 23 February and took over the command of the operation. Forward elements of the Wutte detachment arrived at Prijedor on 26 February around 19:30 while the remaining troops took over the security of Dubica - Prijedor road. 923rd Landesschützen Battalion was escorted by the Wutte detachment to Dubica on 10 March 1942. Before retreating, the Germans set off central warehouses of Ljubija mine containing 50 000 kilograms of explosives besides demolishing mine installations.
By February 23, General Bader sent a modified order for captured rebels to be sent to the Sabac concentration camp, later Zemun form where they would be sent as labor force but by this time most of the population fled.
Commander of NDH garrison and Prijedor, Colonel Mario Zlobec refused the German offer to retreat with them which was approved by the NDH command in Banja Luka.
|German progress was accompanied by the burning of houses|
German reported casualties
Partisan casualties claimed by Germans but these also include civilians shot in reprisals:
Partisans reported only a dozen casualties and claimed to have captured:
11 machine guns MG-34
6 submachine guns
|Second Krajina Partisan Detachment|
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 a Partisan attack on Prijedor on the night of 15/16 May 1942. A joint attack by 1st and 2nd Krajina Partisan detachment resulted in the annihilation of the garrison with around 100 NDH soldiers killed including commander colonel Zlobec and around 1300 NDH soldiers taken prisoners.