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World - Europe

Kosovo refugees ignore dangers to return home

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related videoRELATED VIDEO
Some refugee camps have emptied and are closing. CNN's Jeff Flock goes to one. (June 17)
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CNN's Matthew Chance says even with fellow Kosovars saying they are being attacked by Serbs upon returning to their homes, Kosovars continue to pour across the border (June 17)
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KFOR enters Kosovo

NATO rolls into Kosovo
KLA rebels accused of vandalizing Serb monastery

U.S., France won't rebuild Yugoslavia if Milosevic stays

Crisis in Kosovo
Focus on Kosovo

June 17, 1999
Web posted at: 4:21 p.m. EDT (2021 GMT)

In this story:

KLA helps register returning refugees

Kosovar finds his family's bones


MORINA, Albania (CNN) -- Aid workers cautiously picked their way through war-torn Kosovo on Thursday as refugees poured across Yugoslavia's borders on their way to homes that may no longer be standing.

More than 28,000 ethnic Albanians have returned to Kosovo from Albania and Macedonia since Tuesday, said Ron Redmond, a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. A line of refugees stretching for six miles headed for the province on Thursday.

So many have headed home that a German relief agency in Kukes, Albania, near the Yugoslav border, began striking its tents at the refugee camp it ran during NATO's war against Yugoslavia.

All 7,000 of the camp's residents have left in the past few days, although not all have gone back to Kosovo. Some, heeding the warnings of NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers, have moved to other camps.

KFOR troops warned that land mines laid by Yugoslav forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army still posed dangers. The U.N. refugee agency said it found a booby trap at its office in Prizren.

"It would be helpful if they would give us a little bit of time to ensure that we have secured the area sufficiently that they can return to their homes safely," said Lt. Col. Robin Clifford, a KFOR spokesman.

"There have been some very unfortunate incidents over the past few days since this operation started, and there have been four deaths amongst the refugees returning, to my knowledge, caused by mine strikes," he said.

KLA helps register returning refugees

Meanwhile, unarmed KLA troops helped NATO soldiers register thousands of refugees returning to Kosovo from Albania. KLA members in civilian clothes helped German NATO troops at Morina on the Albanian side of the border with administrative work and pointed out potential troublemakers.

More than 860,000 Kosovars fled the Serbian province during the war; in addition, about half a million were displaced inside Kosovo in more than a year of ethnic strife between the majority-ethnic Albanian population and Serb authorities.

Redmond said many returning Kosovars will find that their homes have been leveled. Most of the houses in western Kosovo between Djakovica and Pec were destroyed, and the U.N. probably will have to provide tents for returning refugees, he added.

Discoveries of suspected mass graves and atrocities have made it difficult for some Kosovars to reclaim their homes and properties. Sites are being preserved until forensic specialists can examine them.

Kosovar finds his family's bones

In the town of Cara Luka, Gani Krasniqi returned to find out what had happened to 26 members of his family who stayed behind during the 11 weeks of airstrikes. The house had been burned, there were bullet holes in the walls and bones on the ground.

He recognized some family members by their hair, others by their teeth. Hungry dogs had scattered much of the remains around the yard. But KLA officers told Krasniqi he couldn't bury the dead yet: They want the home treated as a crime scene, so investigators from the U.N. war crimes tribunal can document the killings.

In the last days of the war, that tribunal charged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four officials with war crimes.

About 50,000 Serbs, fearing reprisals from ethnic Albanians, have left Kosovo.

Correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Matthew Chance and Jeff Flock contributed to this report.

KLA rebels accused of vandalizing Serb monastery
June 17, 1999
U.S. offers plan to break KFOR impasse with Russia
June 17, 1999
U.S., France won't rebuild Yugoslavia if Milosevic stays
June 17, 1999
The tide turns: Kosovo Albanians return home as Serbs flee
June 16, 1999
U.S., Russia near deal on Russian troops in KFOR
June 16, 1999
More U.S. troops enter Kosovo
June 15, 1999
Ethnic tidal waves rush in and out of Kosovo
June 15, 1999
NATO gains ground as Serb convoys roll out of Kosovo
June 14, 1999
Shootings raise tensions in Kosovo
June 13, 1999
NATO peacekeeping commander arrives in Pristina
June 12, 1999
Russians await orders in Kosovo as generals meet with NATO
June 12, 1999

  • 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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