NATO troops find charred bodies in Kosovo house
June 15, 1999
VELIKA KRUSA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO peacekeepers spreading out in the Serbian province of Kosovo reported another grim discovery Tuesday -- at least 20 burned bodies in a house in a deserted village.
Yugoslav forces had set the house ablaze with about 55 people inside, according to an officer of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has been seeking independence for Kosovo. Those who tried to jump out of the house were shot, the officer said.
German troops blocked off the scene in the deserted village near the Albanian border. They were waiting for investigators to look into what happened.
Eyewitnesses reported the massacre in Krushe Emadi, called Velika Krusa by the Serbs, as they crossed to Kukes, Albania, in late March and in early April. The KLA said the incident took place on March 26.
In eastern Kosovo near the Macedonian border, local residents told CNN that about 150 people were killed by Serb forces and buried at two sites -- Stari Kacanik and Kacanik.
In Stari Kacanik, villagers took journalists Tuesday to a suspected mass burial site. In a field, freshly turned dirt covered 16 mounds. The number of dead was unknown.
Residents said those buried there were killed during the same incident in April as the people whose graves were discovered at Kacanik. U.S. troops began guarding that site on Monday, pending the arrival of forensic experts.
Gen. Georgy Shpak, commander of the Russian airborne forces said eight trucks and several other vehicles were transporting Russian paratroopers and supplies to the Russian soldiers already at the airport, the Interfax news agency said.
There was no word on how many Russian soldiers were in the latest deployment.
About 200 Russian troops from the Bosnia peacekeeping mission arrived at the Pristina airport before dawn Saturday -- beating NATO to the area -- and they have not allowed NATO forces to enter the airport.
Shpak said he had a telephone conversation Tuesday with the Russian units at the airport.
"The servicemen continue to reinforce the area. No incidents have been reported so far. The soldiers are in high spirits," Shpak was quoted as saying by Interfax.
The Pentagon was aware of Russian troops assembling in Bosnia for a resupply mission and expected them to take food, fuel, water and communications equipment to the soldiers at the Pristina airport.
Military and political leaders worked to break an impasse over the Pristina airport occupation, where the 19-member military alliance had planned to set up its headquarters.
U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin spoke for a second straight day, while NATO leaders downplayed the situation at the airport. The commander of NATO's peacekeepers, British Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson said holding the airport "is not important to me" and that a temporary KFOR headquarters had been set up west of Pristina.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she and Defense Secretary William Cohen would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev in Helsinki, Finland in the coming days.
That announcement was made after Clinton and Yeltsin spoke by phone.
Jackson said he was in discussions with Russian Gen. Viktor Zavarzin about the role of 200 Russian troops occupying the Pristina air field and said he looked forward to "assimilating the Russians into KFOR."
He said he considered their surprise arrival Friday a "political matter currently being dealt with between the capitals involved."
Russian generals said paratroopers and infantry soldiers were ready to go to Kosovo when the political decision is made to send them. Russian commanders said that decision had not been made and no air corridor to move its peacekeepers had been secured.
Withdrawal deadline nears
With NATO peacekeepers surging further into Kosovo, the alliance Tuesday was continuing to monitor Yugoslav forces to see if the troops make a midnight deadline to withdraw from a southern zone of the war-torn province.
Under terms outlined last week, Yugoslav military leaders agreed to fully withdraw its forces from an area designated as Zone 1 by midnight Tuesday, or Day Six of the entire withdrawal.
The zone stretches across the southern border of the province, but juts to the north at one point to include Pristina, the Kosovo capital. It includes parts of the U.S., British, German and Italian operational sectors that each country is to monitor.
Jackson on Monday said the deployment of the NATO peacekeeping force was on schedule even while "the situation remains volatile."
Yugoslav forces were still seen throughout Kosovo but most were showing signs of withdrawing -- while some ethnic Albanian refugees were beginning to head back into Kosovo, despite urgings from aid agencies to wait until security has tightened.
More than 14,000 NATO troops have been deployed so far with more on the way. No NATO troops had been killed, Jackson said, although two Serbs had been killed by NATO troops. Jackson originally said three German journalists were killed by sniper fire, but later German officials said only two journalists had been killed.
For the first time since the conflict began March 24, badly needed humanitarian aid was delivered to displaced Kosovars near Pristina.
Serb paramilitary forces had not left the area but did not interfere as aid workers handed out wheat, flour, oil, baby formula, blankets and bottled water to 25,000 ethnic Albanians who came out of the hills.
"They don't have the basic necessities, let alone medical supplies, schooling, everything that we take for granted," U.N. envoy Dennis McNamara told CNN. "We can turn it around quickly, as I said, provided the environment is conducive to that."
In Prizren, about 400 cars, trucks and buses carried the city's Serbs out of town and eventually out of Kosovo. The Serbs said they fear retribution from the returning refugees and the displaced Kosovar Albanians.
A mob of ethnic Albanians tossed rocks and shouted insults as the convoy rolled by. When the Serbs left, a few Kosovar Albanians looted Serb shops and restaurants.
Their anger vented, hundreds of ethnic Albanians turned to celebration and flooded the streets of Kosovo's second largest city. Many clapped and chanted pro-NATO slogans.
"Now we celebrate all night," one man said.
In the small village of Glogovac, about 18 miles (30 km) west of Pristina, a group of 25,000 displaced people descended from the hills as humanitarian aid arrived and appeared for the first time in more than 11 weeks of hiding.
The group was part of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians who took shelter in villages and forests after they said they were driven from their towns by Yugoslav forces.
Although in reasonably good physical condition, they were living on corn and little else. Many appeared exhausted and thin. Some are in serious need of medical help.
The World Food Program and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees brought five large trucks of supplies that included the wheat, flour and other much-sought relief.
Correspondents Mike Boettcher and Christiane Amanpour contributed to this report.
NATO monitors Yugoslav withdrawal from southern zone as deadline nears
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