Britain accuses Serbs of preventing Kosovars' escapes
April 8, 1999
LONDON (CNN) -- Britain accused Serb forces Thursday of rounding up thousands of displaced Kosovars who had traveled close to the Albania-Macedonia borders in the hope of reaching safe havens and forcing them back into the embattled Serb province of Kosovo.
"They seem now to have started rounding up refugees queuing to leave Kosovo and returning them by force," said Clare Short, British secretary of state for international development, at a news conference in London.
"We do not know whether they have been driven back to their homes or elsewhere within Kosovo," she said.
CNN correspondents who visited the Albania-Kosovo border Thursday said Serb forces could be seen laying what appeared to be mines just inside their territory at Morina, the main border crossing into Albania.
There were other reports of soldiers digging trenches and checking old bunkers in the area.
The Albanian parliament has approved NATO plans to send 24 U.S. Apache attack helicopters -- often referred to as tank killers -- into Albania.
CNN Correspondent Mike Boettcher, who was at the Kosovo- Albania border, said thousands of Kosovars who had lined up on the Yugoslav side of the border, hoping to cross into Albania, were gone Thursday.
Boettcher said he was told that many vehicles belonging to ethnic Albanians were found abandoned, some of them burned, along the road leading to the border post.
According to Serbian media and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Kosovars returned to their homes.
"The refugees ... were told to return to their places of residence -- whatever is left of those places," said a spokesman for the OSCE, which has been monitoring the border.
Short called the forcible movement of people "unacceptable."
"He (Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic) and his henchmen will be held fully responsible for any harm that comes to the Kosovars at the hands of his troops and paramilitaries. They will be held accountable for war crimes," she told journalists in London.
As tension mounted on the Albanian border, the NATO-run refugee transit centers in northern Albania -- particularly in the main camp at Kukes -- were moving people south.
Authorities told CNN Correspondent Satinger Bindra in Kukes that they were trying to move thousands of refugees to Tirana, the capital.
There were about 100,000 refugees at Kukes, and aid officials on Thursday still were trying to improve their living conditions, particularly sanitation. Several children were sick with measles, and there were fears that other diseases could erupt.
Artur Kuko, chief of the Albanian mission to NATO, told CNN's Patricia Kelly in Brussels that Milosevic's deportation of tens of thousands of refugees was a "human bomb" meant to destabilize the region.
Short told the London news conference that NATO would not stop until Milosevic was defeated.
"What we will do is prosecute this war until Serb aggression is reversed, troops withdrawn, an international force put in place and Kosovars are able to return home safely."
Short said conditions had improved markedly for refugees in Macedonia who were moved from squalid camps to new "tent cities" set up by NATO. But she said NATO officials were worried, because some of them were being sent out of the country.
"We remain concerned that refugees in Macedonia are being forced onto planes and buses. This is unacceptable. We understand Macedonian concerns and will provide support to Macedonia, provided it complies with international rights and norms in its treatment of refugees," Short said.
The Macedonian authorities already have flown several thousand refugees out of the country, predominantly to Turkey, which is among several nations accepting them.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Julia Taft told CNN that officials had taken steps to prevent families from being split up in the transport process, a problem that was occurring before proper registration procedures began being followed.
NATO strikes target Serb ground forces, complicate GI release efforts
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.