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World - Europe

NATO: 'New heights' of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo

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March 30, 1999
Web posted at: 10:42 a.m. EST (1542 GMT)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO said Tuesday there is a Serb-led ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo that has reached "new heights," with 118,000 ethnic Albanians forced to flee their homes within the past week.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea , addressing a news conference at the alliance's headquarters, said the town of Pec, Kosovo's second largest city with a former population of 100,000, had been "almost totally destroyed." (325K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV)

NATO military spokesman, Royal Air Force Air Commodore David Wilby , standing next to Shea, said the ethnic cleansing campaign had clearly reached "new heights." (325K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV)

Shea said all reports reaching NATO indicated that what was happening in Kosovo was a well-organized "master plan" by Belgrade.

He said the reported pattern of violence was that Serb tanks were surrounding villages, then "paramilitaries are going in, rounding up civilians at gunpoint, separating young men from women and children."

"The women and children are then expelled from their homes and then sent toward the border. After they have left the villages, the homes are looted and then systematically torched," Shea said.

He added that, if these reports were confirmed, "this is something that we haven't seen since the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s."

Wilby said that NATO's "offensive operations" against Serb military targets in Yugoslavia were continuing around the clock and that the Yugoslav military's capabilities to crack down on ethnic Albanians would be degraded by the airstrikes.

He said that NATO attacks on Monday were concentrated on seven target regions in northern Serbia and four in Kosovo.

While NATO insists that its military campaign is successful in that respect, Shea admitted that there now was a "humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions."

"NATO's immediate concern is to mobilize all our efforts to address the plight of the refugees," Shea said, adding that emergency supplies such as field hospitals, tents, blankets and food were being sent to the crisis region by air and ship.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said Monday that the alliance was closely coordinating efforts with the U.N. refugee agency and the European Union.

EU humanitarian affairs commissioner Emma Bonino was to travel to the refugee region this week to assess the immediate needs.

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  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosovo - from

  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page

  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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