War crime clues beneath Kosovo rubble
Atrocities 'stagger' FBI investigators
June 25, 1999
DJAKOVICA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Investigating a crime scene is standard duty for an FBI agent, but when the scene is a house in Kosovo, burned down after 20 people inside were shot to death, even experienced agents are stunned.
The site -- in Djakovica, a city in western Kosovo -- is one of six named in an indictment from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, accusing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four of his military and government aides with crimes against humanity.
An FBI team, made up of dozens of forensic scientists and other specialists, is in Djakovica to see if there's enough evidence to link the crimes committed there to specific individuals.
That means digging through the rubble of a house on Milos Gilic Street, a place where human remains have been found.
War crimes prosecutors say mass murder took place here in late March or early April. It's alleged that Serb troops, determined to rid Kosovo of ethnic Albanians, herded 20 people, mostly women and children, into the house where they were shot to death.
The troops then allegedly burned the house, causing the roof to collapse and burying corpses underneath. Ironically, say investigators, the rubble actually helped preserve human remains and other evidence.
"To see the skeletal remains of young children, and people in general, it's not something that FBI agents are confronted with on a day-to-day basis," said FBI agent Paul Mallett as his colleagues nearby sifted through debris.
"It's taken its toll on our people," he told CNN.
The FBI will also excavate at least one other site in Djakovica, a place where prosecutors allege six ethnic Albanian men were executed and buried in March.
It's expected to take a few more days to complete the work, which includes photographing human remains, cataloging the scene and taking samples to be used in war crimes prosecutions.
"We're sifting through (crime scene rubble) to look for any skeletal remains that are still there, as well as evidence of atrocities," said FBI crime lab scientist Allyson Simons.
"Whether it be shell casings or (something else), we're looking for that," she told CNN.
'Whole city burned out'
Residents of Djakovica say the 26 deaths under investigation are just part of the story.
They've come forward with "400 or 500 names of men who remain missing and whose fate is utterly unknown," David Scheffer, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said Thursday.
For now, the two sites in Djakovica are the only official crime scenes. Even so, explains Mallett, "all of Djakovica" resembles the house on Milos Gilic Street.
"This whole city of 50,000 or 60,000 has literally been burned out," he told CNN. "(We've been told that) if you were to look into any one of these homes, underneath the fallen roof tiles, you'd find bodies."
"In any one instance it's tragic," says the FBI agent, "but when you put them all together, it's staggering."
Correspondent Mike Boettcher contributed to this report.
Gunmen who fired on Marines believed to be Serbs
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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