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World - Europe

NATO air war officially ends as Yugoslav troops leave Kosovo

Serb troops withdraw from Kosovo before Sunday's midnight deadline

 MILITARY PLAN:
Focus on
Kosovo
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 ALSO:
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 MESSAGE BOARD:
Rebuilding Kosovo
 IN-DEPTH SPECIAL:
Focus on Kosovo
 

June 20, 1999
Web posted at: 6:01 p.m. EDT (2201 GMT)


In this story:

Refugees and suspected war crimes

KLA a question mark

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO officially ended its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia on Sunday after the alliance's top general reported that all Yugoslav forces had left Kosovo.

"Acting under the authority granted me by the North Atlantic Council, I have accordingly decided to terminate with immediate effect the air campaign, which I suspended on June 10," said NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana in a statement.

Solana's announcement came after Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme commander, notified the alliance that all Yugoslav army and special police units were out of Kosovo, well ahead of a midnight Sunday (2200 GMT, 6 p.m. EDT) deadline.

The campaign of air strikes began on March 24 and was aimed at forcing Yugoslav PresidentSlobodan Milosevic to pull his troops from the Serbian province. Solana suspended the campaign when Milosevic agreed to a deal negotiated by Russia, the United States and the European Union.

The pullout was completed 11 hours ahead of a midnight Sunday deadline.

In Pristina, Kosovo's capital, NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Robin Clifford said that Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson -- the commander of the KFOR peacekeeping mission -- was still awaiting written confirmation that armed civilians and paramilitary groups had withdrawn along with the uniformed forces.

"Personnel belonging to either of these categories who remain in Kosovo after midnight tonight will be subject to robust KFOR enforcement," Clifford said.

Refugees and suspected war crimes

As the last Yugoslav troops left the war-torn province, more reports of suspected war crimes emerged.

German peacekeeping troops pulled the body of a 62-year-old ethnic Albanian from Kosovo and 11 others from a well in Dragacina, near Prizren, on Saturday as NATO peacekeepers continued to discover sites of the reported atrocities.

A suspected mass grave site was found just outside the village of Izbica. Witnesses told international war crimes investigators that they saw Yugoslav forces rounding up and shooting ethnic Albanians at the site near the end of March.

People who escaped the alleged massacre say that as many as 150 bodies may be buried at the Izbica site.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians fled their homes as the conflict's intensity increased. Those people are now returning, from mountain hideouts within Kosovo and from outside the country altogether.

Over 60,000 people have returned from Albania in the past five days, said Capt. Wolfgang Greven, a spokesman for NATO's Albania force, AFOR. Another 30,000 have crossed the border from Macedonia, said the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

But as ethnic Albanians returned, Serbs -- fearing reprisals -- fled. Kosovar Albanians were reported on a burning spree, torching Serb homes, in the German-held sector of Kosovo.

KLA a question mark

search
A NATO soldier searches for weapons in a car bearing the Kosovo rebels' initials  

NATO peacekeepers faced other problems across the province --notably from the pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army.

It was the KLA's armed struggle against the Yugoslav government in the predominantly ethnic Albanian province that triggered a military crackdown in February 1998, beginning a chain of events that led to NATO airstrikes.

KLA members agreed to demilitarize as part of the peace framework for Kosovo worked out between NATO and the Yugoslav government. But some KLA members have vowed not to lay down their weapons, saying they consider themselves a legitimate army guaranteeing Kosovo's security and independence.

NATO soldiers in Pristina have ordered KLA soldiers on the streets of the provincial capital to remove their armbands. But in other locations armed KLA members dressed in camouflage drill openly, in sight of KFOR troops, disquieting both Serb civilians and KFOR commanders.

Representatives of KFOR and the KLA have been negotiating over demilitarization and are reportedly near an agreement. Whether guerrillas in the field will go along with any deal calling for them to lay down their weapons remains an open question.

French President Jacques Chirac said Sunday that such a deal had been signed, but at least one KLA commander has told CNN that his forces would "never disarm."

Correspondents Richard Blystone, Matthew Chance, Jim Clancy and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
G-8 nations to tackle Third World debt
June 18, 1999
Agreement reached on Russian role in Kosovo force
June 18, 1999
Yugoslav forces meet second withdrawal deadline
June 18, 1999
U.N. wants 2 weeks before Kosovar refugees return
June 18, 1999
Returning refugees find gruesome remains in wrecked Kosovo
June 17, 1999
U.S., Russia extend talks on Russian role in KFOR
June 17, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Yugoslavia:
  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

Kosovo:
  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosovo - from Albanian.com

Military:
  • 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

Relief:
  • 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
  • UNHCR


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

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