Ethnic tidal waves rush in and out of Kosovo
Two Kosovar refugees die in mine blast
June 15, 1999
BLACE, Macedonia (CNN) -- A land mine explosion killed two ethnic Albanians as determined refugees flooded into Kosovo Tuesday to reclaim their homes. Meanwhile, Serb civilians fearing for their lives fled the province in cars and tractors.
At Blace, Kosovar refugees created a traffic jam when as many as 2,000 walked or drove across the border, ignoring pleas from international humanitarian officials to wait until the province was secure.
Many crossed on remote back roads, including some in a car that detonated a land mine. The blast killed two and injured a third person, according to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
They had driven across the border and attempted to return to Macedonia when it happened, said Dennis MacNamara of the UNHCR.
"My urgent message to all the refugees in the camps is, 'Don't come back yet. It's not safe,'" he told reporters in Pristina.
The UNHCR handed out pamphlets in Macedonia warning of the hidden hazards, which NATO fears Serbs have left throughout the province.
But the refugees could not be deterred. "I don't live here," one refugee said in Blace. "I want to go home, and my home is in Kosovo."
Once they cross, there may be no turning back. Macedonian authorities at the border took away green identification cards that entitled the displaced to food and water at refugee camps. Without the documents, the Kosovars were not authorized to return to Macedonia.
In Albania, a similar surge of refugees began returning from camps to Kosovo through the Morina border crossing.
Meanwhile, hungry Kosovar Albanians continued to emerge from hiding as NATO and Kosovo Liberation Army forces entered areas that Yugoslav forces were leaving.
In Djackova, ethnic Albanians said they had fled into the hills some time ago to escape detainment by Serb forces. "You had to live like rabbits," one said. Thousands of young people have disappeared, the ethnic Albanians said.
Serb forces pulling out of central Kosovo were setting fires to houses, free-lance reporter Juliette Terzieff reported from Glogovac, 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Pristina.
She reported convoys of Serb troops were departing the area. "As they left, one house after the other burst into flames in Poklek. Later in the afternoon, smoke was seen in another village, Koratits," she said.
"Civilians returning are not finding much left, often charred remains."
The Serbian Orthodox Church, which on Tuesday called on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to resign, appealed to Serbs living in Kosovo not to leave.
But it appeared that the flood of Serb civilians out of Kosovo had begun, the United Nations said.
Fearing reprisals from ethnic Albanians or KLA fighters, they rode in tractor and car convoys alongside withdrawing Yugoslav military units.
"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.
Many of the leaving Serbs were women and children. Some Serbs indicated the men were sending their families north to central Serbia until NATO establishes control of the province.
KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, calculated that 7,000 Serbs have fled Pristina. Estimates of civilian Serbs who have left the province exceed 10,000 since last week, when NATO and Yugoslavia signed an agreement to end alliance airstrikes.
Yugoslavia has until June 20 to remove all of its Kosovo forces.
Correspondents Matthew Chance, Jim Clancy and Mike Boettcher contributed to this report.
NATO finds more horrors; Yugoslav troops push to meet deadline
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