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World - Europe

Ethnic tidal waves rush in and out of Kosovo

Refugees return
Ethnic Albanian refugees continue crossing the border into Yugoslavia despite pleas for patience from NATO and nongovernmental organizations

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June 15, 1999
Web posted at: 3:08 p.m. EDT (1908 GMT)

In this story:

'My home is in Kosovo'

Fleeing Serbs urged to stay


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.

'My home is in Kosovo'

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."

Fleeing Serbs urged to stay

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.

Serbs departing
Fearing reprisals from ethnic Albanians, some Serbs leave Kosovo  

"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.

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June 12, 1999
Russians await orders in Kosovo as generals meet with NATO
June 12, 1999
Some Kosovo refugees return while others continue to flee
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U.S. puts positive spin on Russian troops in Kosovo
June 12, 1999
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Russian troops enter Kosovo; Moscow orders them to leave
June 11, 1999
Russia says relations with NATO 'frozen'
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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

Resettlement Agencies Helping Kosovars in U.S.:
  • Church World Service
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
  • Iowa Department of Human Services
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Immigration and Refugee Services of America
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
  • United States Catholic Conference

  • World Relief
  • Doctors without borders
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • InterAction
  • 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
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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