NATO finds more horrors; Yugoslav troops push to meet deadline
June 15, 1999
MALA KRUSA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO peacekeepers reported Tuesday finding at least 20 burned bodies in the ruins of a house near the Albanian border.
German soldiers with the NATO-led KFOR mission cordoned off the gruesome scene in Mala Krusa, called Krushe Emadi by Albanians.
The town in the Serb province of Kosovo is located near where some of the heaviest fighting took place between the Kosovo Liberation Army and Serb forces. The deserted area is marked by signs of the recent war -- burned houses, bombed factories and dead animals.
The KLA said Serbian paramilitary forces had gathered 50 to 60 people in the house and set it ablaze. Those who tried to jump from windows to escape were shot, a KLA officer said.
The KLA said the massacre occurred on March 26, shortly after NATO began bombing Yugoslavia. Eyewitnesses reported similar accounts as they crossed days later into Kukes, Albania.
The residents said about 150 people were killed by Serb forces and buried at Kacanik and Stari Kacanik. U.S. troops are guarding the graves at Kacanik.
KFOR said forensic investigators were being sent to examine the sites.
A contingent of about 15 vehicles carrying 30 Russian troops was going through Yugoslavia on Tuesday to provide relief supplies to about 200 Russian troops occupying the Pristina airfield.
British Rear Adm. Simon Moore told a briefing in London that the relief mission would be allowed through the British-controlled zone around Pristina.
Moore described talks between British Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson and Gen. Viktor Zavarin, commander of the Russian forces at the airport, as "amicable and constructive." But he said a number of issues remain to be resolved.
On Saturday, about 200 Russian troops from the Bosnia peacekeeping mission unexpectedly arrived ahead of NATO forces in Pristina. They have since occupied the airport, where the 19-member military alliance had planned to set up a provisional headquarters.
In Moscow, Russian officials said Tuesday they feared the troops at the airport may be attacked by KLA fighters operating in the area.
Military and political leaders from the United States and Russia have engaged in a diplomatic flurry to try to break the impasse.
"It's obvious they are trying their best to meet the deadline," Shea said on Tuesday. More than one third of the Yugoslav force had already left Kosovo, he said.
The region stretches across the southern border of the province, but juts to the north to include the provincial capital. The zone includes parts of sectors to be monitored separately by U.S., British, German and Italian units.
Long columns of civilian and military vehicles carrying Serb troops and paramilitary forces could be seen on the roads leading north out of Pristina.
But Shea warned equipment problems may force the Yugoslav forces to miss the deadline for complete withdrawal. The Serbs are facing logistical and maintenance problems, he said. Yugoslav forces have until June 20 to leave the province completely.
On the Macedonian border, between 1,500 and 2,000 Kosovar refugees returned across the border into Kosovo Tuesday, ignoring warnings of booby traps and land mines.
Three people who turned around and tried to go back into Macedonia hit a land mine, according to Dennis McNamara, an envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Two were killed and the third was seriously injured.
"My urgent message to all the refugees in the camps is, 'Don't come back yet, it's not safe,'" said McNamara.
U.N. officials fear another refugee exodus may take place, as thousands of Serbs in makeshift tractor convoys flee the province, fearing reprisals from ethnic Albanians.
"That's a tragic sight for us," MacNamara said. Relief workers were attempting to persuade them to stay, he said.
"We are going to Serbia. we are afraid of terrorists," one woman said, adding that people armed with guns went to her house and told her to leave.
KFOR estimates that 7,000 Serbs have fled the Pristina area alone.
The Red Cross estimates 11,000 have left the province since Yugoslavia signed a peace accord last week to halt more than two months of NATO airstrikes.
The alliance conducted the air campaign when Belgrade refused to sign an agreement designed to end fighting between Yugoslav forces and Kosovar rebels.
In other developments:
British troops said they arrested five suspected ethnic Albanian guerrillas who fired on them. No one was reported hurt. The British suspected the five killed a Serb man earlier in the day.
Paul Risely of the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands, which has indicted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and others, said the tribunal is coordinating with KFOR to investigate sites of reported atrocities.
KFOR spokesman Lt. Col. Robin Clifford said he had no information on reports of the launch of a rocket grenade near the Pristina airport, other than no NATO personnel were involved.
The Serbian Orthodox Church has demanded that Milosevic resign for the good of the country and allow for new leadership, the independent Beta news organization reported.
Ethnic tidal waves rush in and out of Kosovo
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