Between March and June of 1999 Serb forces controlled by Slobodan Milosevic employed murder and mass deportation in a doomed attempt to maintain control over the province, nominally a part of Serbia but home to a predominately ethnic Albanian (Kosovar) population. It is estimated that some 700,000 Kosovars were expelled from their homeland during that period, and that some 11,000 people died as a result of the fighting. The latter figure, although appalling in human terms, is far lower than the estimates issued by Nato and the US State Department during the war to justify the Nato air offensive aimed at ending Serbian military action. They claimed hundreds of thousands of Kosovar men had gone missing during a campaign of ethnic cleansing instituted by the Serbs. Despite its Albanian population, Kosovo held a distinctive place in Serb national mythology as the spiritual cradle of the nation.