Kosova Crisis Center

about alb-net.com
mailing lists
alb-net.com bookstore
KCC archives

link to alb-net




Updated at 2:40 PM on June 17, 1999

Up to 10,000 buried in Kosova's mass graves, British say (CNN)

As many as 10,000 people may be buried in mass graves in Kosova, and advancing peacekeepers are finding new evidence of atrocities daily, British officials said Thursday.

'Torture chamber' discovered in Prishtina police station (CNN)

British troops participating in the KFOR peacekeeping mission have discovered what Foreign Office Minister Geoff Hoon called a "torture chamber" in the cellar of Serbia's special police headquarters in Prishtina, Kosova's provincial capital.

And while Yugoslav troops are leaving Kosova as scheduled by last week's cease-fire, they are burning houses and occasionally shooting people as they go, Adm. Ian Garnett, Britain's chief of joint operations, said.

New massacres uncovered in the villages of Peja - List of 100 People Massacred (KosovaPress)

Pejė, June 17, (Kosovapress)
New massacres commited by Serb forces have been uncovered in the villages of Qyshk, Pavlan, Nabėrgjan and Zahaq, that are located near Peja. These identified persons from the village Qyshk have been executed by Serb forces on May 14:

1.Ramė Dervish Gashi (aged 65),
2.Xhafer Ramė Gashi (aged 40),
3.Rrahim Dervish Gashi (aged 55),
4.Rasim Hysen Ramaj (aged 45),
5.Metė Shala (aged 55),
6.Selim Maxhun Gashi (aged 50),
7.Haki N.Gashi (aged 45),
8.Jashar Azem Gashi (aged 58),
9.Muharrem Azem Gashi (aged 50),
10.Avni Drevish Gashi (aged 50),
11.Skėnder Dervish Gashi (aged 35),
12.Musė Shaban Gashi (aged 63),
13.Ibish Kadri Gashi (aged 55),
14.Rrahim Shaban Gashi (aged 55),
15.Ahmet Rrustem Gashi (aged 35),
16.Emin Bekė Gashi (aged 60),
17.Emrush Krasniqi, a guest from Vranoci,
18.Ismet Bajraktari, a guest from Raushiēi,
19.Hasan Metė Hatamaj, a guest from Batusha,
20.Gani Avdyl Hasanaj, a guest from Batusha,
21.Hasan Ahmet Ēeku (aged 70),
22.Bedri Ahmet Ēeku (aged 65),
23.Isuf Shala, a guest from Grabofci,
24.Ēaush Rrustem Lushi,
25.Ardian Ēaushi (aged 30),
26.Ardian Ēaush Lushi (aged 20),
27.Osman Haxhi Lushi (aged 48),
28.Sefedin Haxhi Lushi (aged 44),
29.Avdullah Lush Lushi (aged 45),
30.Ukė Lush Lushi (aged 43),
31.Ramiz Lush Lushi (aged 40),
32.Xhafer Lush Lushi (aged 35),
33.Skėnder Lush Lushi (aged 30),
34.Nifa Din Kelmendi (aged 55),
35.Skėnder Din Kelmendi (aged 50),
36.Besim Din Kelmendi (aged 38),
37.Ardian Skėnder Dina (aged 20),
38.Rrahim Sylė Kelmendi (aged 40),
39.Xhemė Isuf Kelmendi (aged 40),
40.Mentor Shaban Kelmendi (aged 22),
41.Avdi Shaban Berisha (aged 58) and

Zeēir Aliaj, a guest from Zllopeku.
The executed persons in the village of Pavlan:

43.Zymer Sadik Gashi (aged 70),
44.Agush Selman Gashi,
45.Liman Hajzer Gashi,
46.Haxhi Rexhė Dreshaj (aged 41),
47.Shaban Tahir Kelmendi (aged 52),
48.Zenun Shala, a guest from Fusha e Pejės,
49.Musė Isuf Lulaj (aged 75),
50.Rrahim Salih Nikēi (aged 55),
51.Xheirane Brahim Nikēi (aged 25),
52.Hatixhe Kamer Nikēi (aged 50) and
53.Ajshe Avdyl Gashi-Kelmendi (aged 40).

In the village of Zahaē these persons have been executed:

54.Zenel Bekė Berisha,
55.Shaban Kasem Neziraj,
56.Sadri Ymer Ramaj,
57.Faton Sadri Ramaj,
58.Valdet Nezir Ramaj,
59.Shpend Rexhė Hyseni,
60.Naim Hajrullah Hyseni,
61.Ismet Hajrullah Hyseni,
62.Haki Hajrullah Hyseni,
63.Sabit Hajrullah Hyseni,
64.Bajrush Avdyl Hyseni,
65.Fehmi Rashit Gjokaj,
66.Hysen Rashit Gjokaj,
67.Ruzhdi Halil Dobraj,
68.Muhamet Halil Dobraj,
69.Halil Halil Dobraj,
70.Bekim Ahmet Delijaj,
71.Shaban Sokol Ramaj,
72.Zymer Osmanaj,
73.Shaban Osmanaj,
74.Fakė Rexhep Murati, a guest ,
75.Demė Ahmet Hatashi, from Leshani.

On June 1, in the village of Qyshk have been executed these persons:

76.Ajeshe Nezir Kastrati,
77.Mirjeta Nezir Kastrati,
78.Haxhi Halil Dobraj and
79.Xhevrije Halil Dobraj,
80.Qerim Halil Kelmendi (aged 95), from Lutogllava and his wife
81.Selime Klemendi (75),
82.The son of Qerim Halili,
83.Gani Kelmendi (aged 52),
84.The son of Ramadani (aged 1.5)

All persons with Kelmendi surname are members of the same family
In the village of Nabėrgjan, these persons executed by the Serb forces have been identified :

85.Jusuf Rexhep Dreshaj (aged 49),
86.Haxhi Dervishi (aged 65),
87.Beqė Nimani (aged 70), a guest from Nakull,
88.Selman Brahim Ibėrdemaj (aged55),
89.Ukė Ademi (65) from the Malajve of Rugova and
90.The wife of Ramė Berisha (aged 50), from Nabėrgjani,
91.Vesel Ramė Dreshaj (aged 50),
92.Rexhep Kuēi (aged 45),
93.Shpėtim Rexhep Kuēi (aged 23),
94.Shkurte Bėrbati (aged 60),
95.The wife of Bajram Hajdin Bėrbati (aged 65),
96.Bute Bajrtaktari (aged34),
97.Ramė Rexha (aged 70),
98.Vulake Sadri Mujaj (aged 75),
99.Ibish Sadri Mujaj (aged 50) and

Sulltane Ramė Lajēi (aged 50).

Albanian President Mejdani to "Süddeutsche Zeitung": Russian Officers are responsible for War Crimes in Kosova

June 17, (Kosovapress)
The post-war climate Albanian President Mejdani gave an interview to the German daily. The 55 year old leader of Albania for the last two years discussed with Peter Munch on Tuesday and Wednesday the need for international assistance to be generously distributed to the region.

SZ: Do you believe there will be peace in Kosova?

Mejdani: Yes. It is a just solution and it occurred at the right time. Now we should work on fulfilling our military goals and the international administration of Kosova. Then it is possible that life can return to some level of normalcy.

SZ: Where remain the largest barriers?

Mejdani: The Yugoslav president can not be trusted. He will try to stall the peace process and this is why this process should be quickened. And there are also problems with the Russians. We must avoid any attempt by the Russians to partition Kosova.

SZ: Is a Russian Sector possible in Kosova?

Mejdani: This would be the wrong path to take. Because in a Russian zone no Albanians would ever return. It must be remembered that Russian officers participated in Serb's war in Kosova and committed many war crimes.

SZ:Are there witnesses?

Mejdani: There are documents that Russian officers are among the Serb military infrastructure. I believe that this was planned, but we have to work on trust and these acts committed by Russian troops does not lead to a viable role for Russian troops in their own sector, which would sanction "ethnic cleansing."

SZ: How do you see Kosova in the future, independent or part of a Greater Albania?

Mejdani: It is important now to create an international protectorate. We now need humanitarian help, the creation of new governing structures, elections and economic assistance to rebuild a devastated Kosova. Maybe later, after five or ten years, we can find a final political solution to Kosova. Only then can Montenegro, Kosova for example can become two new entities in South East Europe which must integrated into the European Community.

SZ: Two new states?

Mejdani: It is not necessary to be independent. It is about creating a federation at the European level where borders will only be geographic symbols.

SZ: Will there be a future for Serb minorities in Kosova?

Mejdani: It is possible to live together but not with criminals.

SZ: Albania allowed about one million deportees to stay, how long will it take before they return?

Mejdani: This is up to how the peace plan will unfold. Those who live in camps will have to return before winter. About 60 percent are living in Albanian homes, they will stay until the beginning of the next year.

SZ: What has been offered for the creation of a stable Balkans?

Mejdani: I am an optimist concerning this. In the last two months the great democracies have demonstrated their understanding that the region needs economic aid. South-eastern Europe will be integrated into the European Union and Euro-Atlantic structures.

SZ: How long will this take for Albania?

Mejdani: If all requirements are fulfilled, then we will need maybe one or two decades. If we manage to meet all the criteria and the barriers of Europe nevertheless remains, this would create more problems and prolong our suffering.

More Mass Graves Discovered around Gjakova, Gjilan and Ruhot

Gjakovė, June 16, (Kosovapress)
In the village of Korenicė, in the commune of Gjakova, in its fields close to the road that leads to the village of Ponoshec, there are 5 or 6 mass graves. In one of these graves, the limbs of the dead were seen sticking out of the ground.

Another site is filled with 5 decomposing bodies which were executed by Serb forces on April 26. In another home, two more decomposed bodies were found.

Witnesses said that three of the bodies belong to Gypsies living in Gjakova. Witnesses also said that 40 Kosovars were murdered during a Serb offensive. Gypsies were ordered by Serb officials to take these bodies to another larger grave site around Gjakova.

Gypsy inhabitants were used as grave diggers and part-took in the removing of decompossing bodies to other sites. Elsewhere, a Kosovar who lost most of his family to a Serb offensive knows of another mass grave with 20 Kosovar bodies and will lead KFOR forces to the site.

Gjilan: French soldiers of the KFOR units have discovered another mass grave in the Gjilan area. According to information taken from locals, the bodies were found near a ruined home at Llashtica, where Serb forces killed 13 on April 30.

Pejė: In the village of Ruhot in the district of Pejė, KFOR troops discovered late yesterday another mass grave which contained 12 civilians murdered by Serb troops. 8 of the bodies were burned, two were children. The site was opened by KFOR troops after receiving information from KLA units in the area of Dukagjin.

Outgoing Yugoslavs burn homes (CNN)

Under the agreement that ended the war, the Yugoslav army and special police have until Sunday to leave Kosova, and are moving on schedule, Garnett said.

"While the timetable of the withdrawal is being met, the nature of the withdrawal is being marked by behavior that prompted the alliance to act in the first place," he said.

Yugoslav troops have burned houses, shot some people and left possible booby-traps in their wake, he said.

"The picture overall is that the Serbs are trying to make it as difficult as possible for Kosovars to return safely to their homes," Garnett said.

U.K. Official: Serbs Killed 10,000 (AP)

By LAURA KING Associated Press Writer

PRISHTINA, Kosova (AP) - Gruesome accounts of almost routine torture and death emerged in Kosova today, and a British official estimated that Serb forces killed more than 10,000 people during two months of war and ethnic violence.

Serbian civilians frantically followed Serb soldiers retreating from the province, and tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians streamed back into their homeland from refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia.

Officials from Moscow and Washington met in Finland to try to resolve the role of Russian peacekeepers in Kosova. Moscow is insisting on a separate sector for its peacekeepers; NATO says that won't happen though President Clinton predicted a ``successful conclusion.''

At least 10,000 ethnic Albanians - and probably many more - were killed by Serbs in more than 100 massacres even while NATO bombed Yugoslavia during the 78-day air campaign that ended last week, the British foreign office said.

``Tragically, our estimates of the numbers of innocent men, women and children killed will almost certainly have to be revised upwards,'' Foreign Office Minister Geoff Hoon said in London.

He said it was hard to believe ``that our fellow human beings could be guilty of machine-gunning children, systematic rape of young women and girls, digging mass graves and burning bodies to try to conceal the evidence of murder.

``But this all happened in Kosova,'' Hoon said.

Survivors of the Serb atrocities that started with a crackdown in February 1998 and continued even after NATO airstrikes began March 24 flooded into the open.

``Hundreds of starving internally displaced people came down from hills near Serbka on 15 June, yesterday, when they spotted Western journalists. They were unaware that NATO had entered the province until they were informed by the journalists,'' NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said today.

``And on 14 June, a four-truck convoy sent by the World Food Program managed to reach 20,000 internally displaced persons hiding in the hills west of Prishtina near Glogovac, and they were greeted by internally displaced persons coming out of the woods.''

Of the 60 people in the room, only six were still alive By Julius Strauss in Poklek (E. Telegraph)

THE last thing the 24 children and 30 adults gathered in a room in the small Kosova village of Poklek would have seen was the overweight Serb policeman with short black hair and pale skin standing by the door.

Then he slammed the door and opened fire through it, splintering the wood and filling the room with flying lead. Many inside fell immediately. When the door opened again the policeman held a hand-grenade. He lobbed it among the wailing victims. Then he fired a few more shots, stopped, switched magazines, and opened fire again.

Finally he prodded some of those he thought might still be alive with his toe. If they grunted, they were shot. Then he left, satisfied that his work was completed. Of 60 people in the room, only six were still alive. Half an hour after killing them the Serbs returned to burn the bodies. Five days later they came back again to burn the parts that survived the first fire.

Yesterday The Telegraph reconstructed the massacre - one of Kosova's most vile. Two of the survivors agreed to be interviewed. Although they had not met since the killing, their stories matched in almost every detail. We visited the scene of the killing still strewn with the splinters of tiny children's bones and the burnt jewellery of incinerated women.

As we worked, relatives brought out family photographs. One showed Shehide, 14, Naser, 12, and Ylber, nine, standing in front of the family Lada. In another, Menduhije, 12, held her hand on the shoulder of her six-year-old brother Mergim. Next to them stood Mirsad in a white American football shirt. Behind them a large brick house with a satellite dish could be seen.

Perhaps saddest of all was a photograph that hardly survived. The edges were worn away and the colours ruined by water and sun. Lirie, six months old, was lying in a traditional wooden crib. All of these children died in the room on March 17.

Relatives at the scene yesterday were willing to help with their part of the story, though several choked back tears as they tried to talk. Mehdi Retik, 34, who lost his wife, three children and mother, had made a neat hand-written list of all the dead with their names and ages.

In broken German he told how he had sneaked out of the hills one night to check on his family only to find the pile of scorched bones, metal buttons and jewellery distorted by fire. Mehdi hid the bones in his clothes and took them back to the hills where he squirrelled them away. He said: "When the day comes I will need them for the Hague [War Crimes Tribunal]. Then they will have a proper burial."

The house where the Albanians died is in a small hamlet on the edge of Poklek. All the windows have been broken and roofs burnt by the marauding Serbs. Before killing the women and children the police took Ymer and another man, Sinan Mucolli, shot them and threw their bodies down the well.

In the garden of the house, the clothes and belongings of the Mucolli family were scattered. There were brightly coloured women's skirts and shirts. Inside the room where the murder was carried out there were human ashes on the floor, bone splinters and the scorched remains of wedding rings and pendants that the victims were wearing.

A woman's watch was encrusted in ash. A necklace was burnt almost beyond recognition. As Fadil Mucolli sifted through the metal pieces yesterday he picked out the watch and held it up. Without emotion, he muttered: "This belonged to my mother." Then he picked up the necklace. "This belonged to my wife, Feride."

Hysen Klunar is a 57-year-old farmer whose arm bends sideways at his bandaged wrist where a bullet passed through it. He was among the massacre survivors. Yesterday he returned to the scene of the killing for the first time. He said: "When first the police came, they ordered us into the sitting room. The men were told to take off their jackets. The policemen were very calm, they didn't shout at all. Then they took Ymer and Sinan outside.

"There was a burst of gunfire. The children began to scream and the women began to cry. Sinan's daughter Emine began to wail, 'They killed my father'. When the first bullets came we all fell to our knees. We knew we would die. Everybody began to cry. The noise was huge and we couldn't see for the smoke. I just held my head between my hands and waited for the end. Then the grenade came and a huge blast. Then the shooting again. He just wouldn't stop."

When the shooting finally stopped a second policeman called from the garden: "Okay, enough let's go." The first replied: "One minute, I still have two or three to finish off." There were more shots, then he left.

Hysen said: "When he finally went outside I didn't dare move. I just listened. I felt a growing throbbing in my wrist and the smoke slowly began to clear. Bodies were everywhere. I saw a friend nearby and just touched him to show I was alive. A woman asked what we should do. I told her to keep quiet. Then, slowly, we all got ourselves together and ran for the mountains."

Elhane Muqolli is a tough looking 14-year-old girl with broken front teeth. Her survival was even more remarkable. Hit in the ankle, she threw herself through a window 10ft to the ground. As she landed she almost fainted from the pain but managed to hobble off and hide behind the house. She broke down repeatedly yesterday as she told her story for the first time.

She said: "We had been trying to get out of the area all day but the police kept sending us back. They said it was safe to return to Poklek. We finally came back to the house at 5pm soaking wet. I was in the room when the hand-grenade was thrown. Everybody began to scream and the room was full of smoke. I just jumped through the window and then ran. Somehow I got away."

The villagers said they had no idea who the policeman was - witnesses said he was in his mid-30s. Locals have begun collecting a list of names of policemen known to have been operating in the area. They hope one day to catch the man responsible. Elhane said: "I will never forget the face of the man that did this."

'Frankie Boy' Explains How They Massacred Albanians (E. Telegraph)

They killed and raped for bloodlust and cash. Now it is their turn to fear

By Caroline Davis in Podgorica

PETAR displays not one shred of remorse. As a paramilitary soldier in Kosova he committed and witnessed many murders but they are just a haze in his drug-crazed mind. He is in hiding in Montenegro and about to flee to Serbia because the only clear thought he has now is to save his own life.

He fears retribution and being held to account for what he and his comrades know they have done. But for his victims, he feels nothing. He is not alone. The story he recounts can be told by the thousands of Serb volunteers who, driven by blood-lust and the chance for mercenary gain, joined independent paramilitary groups to kill, rape and loot their way across Kosova, and are now returning home.

"I am a fighter. That's all I know," he says, knocking back whisky. "War is war. I do not fear war. I fear peace," he adds, shaking because he has not been able to get drugs recently. Petar is not his real name; he refuses to give that. He is 27, unmarried, and one of the "Frankie Boys", a despised and feared group of independent paramilitaries run by "Frankie" Simatovic, ex-Belgrade special forces and a colleague of the indicted war criminal Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic. He went to Kosova simply to make money.

When asked how many murders he and his comrades committed or witnessed he waves his hand dismissively. "There were many, many deaths, of course. It is a stupid question. At first, you know, you remember them. Then, it is as common as saying 'Good morning'.

"We worked by night and slept by day. We had no trouble. Everyone was terrified of us. The Albanians were pussy-cats. Sometimes we only had to turn on loud music and they ran away. And the KLA, they were chicken, and only a few of them up in the mountains. If we caught one, we would cut off their ear. They would soon tell us everything we wanted to know. Then we kill them."

Only two of the atrocities his group committed truly remain with him. The first was in a village near the border with Serbia. He and his group were ahead of the Yugoslav army, intent on reaching gold and cash before anyone else, when they entered a small house where an elderly Albanian woman was cowering in a chair with her grandson, aged three or four. As the rest of the group searched the house, Petar and his friend waited with the woman.

He said: "We did not kill women and children. Almost never. It was raining, and you know it was cold and this lady was shaking. My friend offered her his jacket to keep warm. And he was unfastening his bullet-proof vest when she suddenly took a gun from her skirt. She shot him. She shot my best friend in the neck. He was killed by a grandmother. Can you imagine that? After that we ripped her apart. She had a bad death. You are not a man in this situation, you are an animal. When your friend is dying in your arms you are thinking the same thing could happen to you. It is your instinct to kill, like an animal.

"I was sorry about this old lady," he says refilling his glass with whisky. "We tried to help her. But, you cannot be sentimental."

The second was in another village where an elderly man was caring for his three grandsons, all aged under 12. He said: "At first one of the group said we should kill the man and spare the boys. But then one of the commanders said: 'No. Don't kill the grandfather. Kill the boys and make him watch.' So they killed the boys and, after, the grandfather took a gun and he killed himself."

He pauses, then adds in an obliging attempt at justification: "You know, I would like to be a normal person, a mechanic or an electrician. But that is not my fate. God decided I am what I am. I have no education. My parents divorced and my father is an alcoholic. I have lived mainly on the streets. I make money how I can. I would like to stay at home, and look after roses in the garden. But I cannot. I am a fighter. That's it. I don't think of tomorrow. I think only of today."

His journey to Kosova began when he went to Belgrade to join the Frankie Boys, three weeks before Nato bombing began. He was sent to Bubanj Potok regular army training camp near the Serbian capital for 20 days. He enjoyed the best food and rigorous physical training as well an instruction in weaponry. He was already accustomed to guns, having fought in Bosnia.

His "regiment" was made up of 84 soldiers, comprising street-fighters, prisoners and mercenaries. At the end of 20 days they had a huge party, and Arkan, accompanied by his wife, walked down the line shaking hands with every one of them. They were given £750 advance pay and flown to Kosova.

Once there, they systematically made their way through villages and towns. "We were after gold and cash. Not televisions or videos. We left those for the army. We were not the only ones. There were many, many people going to Kosova to do the same. We found plenty of gold and cash, some diamonds and a vase full of 24ct gold coins. We gave what we took to the commander. Some we kept, but most went to Belgrade.

"We ate in their houses. We would force them to cook for us, the best food. Usually it was the grandmother who cooked. If they had a lamb we would kill it for lunch. We killed their chickens for a barbecue. We had as much food as we wanted. People were safe if they helped us . . ." he says, refusing to finish the sentence.

"It was impossible to catch us. Nato destroyed the bridges, the airports and the command bases. But we were in the woods. We moved from place to place. Sometimes we were in towns, sometimes in villages and sometimes in the Albanians' own bunkers. Ninety per cent of Albanians have bunkers. I think Nato killed more Albanians than they did soldiers because the soldiers were all underground. The best shelter for us was with the civilians and in the bunkers in Prishtina."

Apart from gold and cash, he and his group were also after drugs. "We had good cocaine. If we could not get cocaine, we would take anything, inject heroin, take tablets. Marijuana. Sometimes we got them from Belgrade, sometimes we took from the Albanians. We didn't have as many drugs as we would have liked. The coke was the best."

Asked if he raped any women, he jokes: "Some I made love to, some I didn't. There are many women down there. You can hit a woman twice over the head and then you can have her. All the women there, they are the same," and he slugs back another whisky. "There is no point to these questions. War is war. You can never forget that. You feel a little bit at the beginning, then you feel nothing."

Many such men are now returning to Serbia and Montenegro. For some, like Dragan, again not his real name, it has been extremely lucrative. An ex-convict in his 40s, stocky and dripping with gold jewellery, he joined another paramilitary group in Belgrade before heading for Kosova.

He estimates that he and his 240 colleagues murdered at least 1,000 men during their three months in the province, something which cannot be verified. He said: "I cannot give an exact amount. It's not like a score at a soccer match. If there is a gun battle, you do not stop to count how many of your bullets there are." He is unwilling to say more on that subject. "We took only cash and jewellery. Albania is the biggest cash country in the world. It's money taken from Westerners through drugs. It's not their money."

His group, he says, operated in Gjakova, Vrosevica, and Peja. Like Petar, he cared for neither side. "I don't care if Albanians live with Serbs, or don't live with Serbs. I care only about business. And it was good business." His group came well prepared, with information on who lived where, and who owned what business. He said: "We had five different uniforms. We even had KLA uniforms. So no one was sure who we were."

Neither of the men - they do not know each other - would reveal his identity. Most of their colleagues are already in Serbia. Petar said: "It is too hot in Montenegro. There are spies everywhere. Montenegro is a Western country now. Only in Serbia am I protected. So, I shall take my arms and go. Who knows, maybe Serbia has a revolution and I can fight again. I don't care where. I will fight for whoever pays the most."

In Gjakova, cultural elite hunted down (Chicago Tribune)

By Paul Salopek Tribune Foreign Correspondent June 17, 1999

Gjakova, Kosova -- They went after the doctors, beating them senseless in midnight attacks at their homes. They targeted political leaders, shooting them point-blank in the face in front of their wives. Influential businessmen were singled out for special looting rampages, with their shops, factories and restaurants systematically burned to the ground.

The Yugoslav military efforts to annihilate ethnic Albanian identity in Kosova has taken many forms, but few were more ruthless -- or effective -- than the carefully orchestrated purge of civic leaders and intellectuals in this almost depopulated city, a stronghold of ethnic Albanian pride, culture and political resistance.

While other Kosova towns endured seemingly chaotic campaigns of terror at the hands of Yugoslav paramilitaries, police and troops, residents here describe a scorched-earth campaign that moved in a careful grid across the city. Albanian authority figures caught up in this web of violence were shown no mercy.

"They definitely went after the leaders first," said Njazi Hasimja, 46, an optician whose business was burned 12 hours after NATO bombs began falling on Yugoslavia on March 24. "A Yugoslav soldier I know told me he was ordered to kill the Albanians here because we were the worst of the worst."

That grim distinction may stem from Gjakova's long association with the Democratic League of Kosova, the opposition Albanian party led by Ibrahim Rugova. More recently, the city also had become identified as a center of support for separatist Albanian guerrillas.

Gjakova, which numbered 80,000 before the start of the conflict, has paid dearly for those sympathies.

Nobody knows how many people were killed, though the number of horror stories suggests it could easily number in the hundreds.

Elsewhere in Kosova, in village after village, new evidence of Serb atrocities surfaced Wednesday as NATO troops and Western journalists made fresh discoveries of more mass graves, charred human remains and bodies dumped in wells.

In Gjakova, the smell of rotting flesh hangs over the yards of the destroyed houses of the neighborhood of Cabrat, where the Kosova Liberation Army and Yugoslav forces clashed in early May.

The makeshift graves of the fallen -- most of them civilians caught in the crossfire -- dot weedy vegetable plots and rose gardens gone wild.

Meanwhile, most of Gjakova's old Albanian Quarter, a quaint area of small shops, narrow stone streets and 500-year-old buildings dating back to the years of Turkish rule, is reduced to piles of scorched rubble. The graceful old mosque is a ruin.

But even more than the general destruction, it is the tales of the focused, highly selective violence that reveal the calculated nature of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's plans to erase all traces of Albanian authority in Yugoslavia's southernmost province.

"Two-thirds of our Albanian staff are missing," said Dr. Burim Sahatjim, a surgeon at the Gjakova hospital. "Paramilitaries went to our houses and beat us immediately after the NATO bombing."

Gjakova's most respected physician, Dr. Izet Hima, was killed by Serbian militiamen in his home, said optician Hasimja. Hima's throat was cut in front of his family.

Others mentioned engineers or rich business leaders who were summarily shot by enraged Yugoslav forces, who roared around the city in military and civilian vehicles.

Even dead Albanian leaders could not escape the Yugoslav military's wrath. The home of

ethnic Albanian World War II hero Emin Duraku -- whose house is a Yugoslav national monument -- was one of the first buildings to be torched by rampaging troops.

"They divided up the city by sections and burned it in an organized way," said Delvina Hasimja, a 25-year-old medical student. "They burned all the leaders' houses first. The next day they burned all the houses of men who belonged to the KLA."

Other targets for the deadly reprisals were the educated, multilingual elite who worked for international relief organizations such as the local Mother Teresa poor house and the peace-monitoring Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Hasimja said.

On Wednesday many residents still wandered the streets of their shattered city in a daze, almost unable to believe that Italian NATO troops had liberated them from retreating Yugoslav forces.

Sporting their best clothes, many of the city's surviving professionals walked tentatively down almost empty sidewalks, blinking in the summer sunlight.

One who wasn't was Urim Rexha, Gjakova's most popular attorney and an influential leader of the Kosova Democratic League. His killing, two days after NATO began bombing Yugoslavia in March, is perhaps the most symbolic blow of all against the city's cultural leaders.

Two paramilitaries pulled up to the affable lawyer's house and shouted for him to surrender. When Rexha walked calmly out to greet them, they shot him in the head. His wife, Timea, said the gunmen also shot dead two neighbors who were unlucky enough to be at the house at the time. Her family buried the three men together in the yard.

"We didn't wash the bodies" as Muslim Albanian custom demands, she said. "We put them into the ground as they were.

"We want the war crimes people to dig them up and find the truth. I'm waiting and I'm strong and I want justice."

She carefully wrapped the shell casings left behind by the killers in a plastic bag and buried them near her garage for later use as evidence.

Memories of brutality dampen the euphoria of liberated Kosovars (Chicago Tribune)

By Paul Salopek

PRIZREN, Kosova -- The dangerous near-riot that marked the liberation of this quaint old Kosovar city by NATO forces Sunday has turned into a massive, joyous block party celebrating the imminent departure of the last of the Yugoslav troops.

But even as families driving battered Yugos, a fruit van packed with shouting teenagers, scores of rickety bicycles and a city fire truck formed an impromptu parade down streets lined with cheering crowds, the first grim inklings already were emerging that all is far from well in Prizren.

Away from the scenes of jubilation, a brutal picture is emerging of the abuses committed there by Yugoslav militias and regular troops.

Reporters visiting the city's outskirts only hours after Yugoslav forces evacuated the area saw scores of looted and burned houses -- ethnic Albanian homes where soldiers had quartered to escape NATO bombing.

Walls were scrawled with Serb graffiti: "Death to Albanians" was a typical message.

An old Albanian man who had returned to pick through the remains of his ravaged house was asked how he felt. He simply grabbed a reporter's hand and placed it over his thumping heart. Then he broke down in tears.

Meanwhile, several young men celebrating their freedom in Prizren's downtown described how Yugoslav security forces had grabbed them months earlier off the city's narrow streets, put them into old army uniforms and forced them to dig trenches for regular soldiers on the Albanian border.

"Whenever NATO planes flew over they would run for cover, but their snipers forced us to continue working in the open, hoping we would get killed," said Rifat Igollari, 23. "I can't sleep anymore. All I have are nightmares."

The stuff of nightmares, in sad truth, still hangs heavily over Kosova despite the bolt of euphoria now electrifying towns and villages as NATO peacekeeping troops roll through.

Kosova is a beautiful and deeply traumatized place: a land of lovely, tree-lined country lanes and the shell-blasted corpses of villages. A bucolic panorama of shimmering green farm fields and roads littered with the detritus of hundreds of thousands of fleeing refugees. Abandoned tractors. Rumpled sweaters. Crushed eyeglasses. A single shoe.

In Prizren, the reign of terror that lately held sway manifested itself not in what could be seen but in what lay hidden.

For the past three months, Prizren has been a city of women. Men stayed locked indoors, fearful of being imprisoned by Yugoslav police or of being press-ganged into labor details bound for the Albanian front.

"I was grabbed by police while waiting in line for bread," said Nuhi Taske, 23, who was released from captivity late last week. "They took us to the sports hall and forced us to sign a paper that we were joining the Serb army as volunteers. We were fed bread twice a day, and if NATO bombs destroyed our trenches, we would just dig them again."

Ahmet Luma, 32, remembers the terror of being forced to sleep next to Yugoslav tanks and ammunition depots as a human shield. He and some 130 other men from Prizren were forced into trench-digging duties for two months.

"We didn't know what we were digging for at first," Luma recalled. "They told us, 'You're digging your own graves. How do you want to die? By hanging? By knife? By bullet?' "

Some of the men, he said, also were forced to give blood, presumably for wounded Yugoslav soldiers.

On Monday, there were poignant scenes on the outskirts of Prizren, even as German NATO troops were applauded and presented flowers as they patrolled the city's downtown.

Scores of internally displaced families -- people who had been forced from their homes by Yugoslav troops hiding from NATO warplanes -- were cautiously making their way back to their old neighborhoods to check on damage to their looted homes.

Ymer Hoxha, 59, was drenched with sweat, busily tidying up the smashed furniture, the head-size rocks hurled through his windows and the feces on his living room floor.

Yugoslav soldiers had vacated his home fewer than 12 hours before. He and his wife, Zade, 50, had drifted among the houses of friends of relatives for the last three months, thinking they would never be able to return.

"I don't care what's happened here," Ymer said, pointing to bullet holes pocking his ceiling. "We will clean it up."

Zade, a small, disheveled woman, said over and over that she was happy. But all she could do was cry.

Survivor: Serb paramilitary slaughtered 140 in my village (Chicago Tribune)

By Ray Moseley Tribune Foreign Correspondent June 16, 1999

STUDIME, Kosova -- Besim Grxhalin said he lay flat in the bed of a truck in this village, with children lying on top of him, while the Serbs killed his people. When the shooting stopped, he said, he leaped from the truck and ran away in the darkness, along with about 20 others.

When they returned the next day with ethnic Albanian rebels hiding in the hills, they found some 140 people had been slaughtered by Serbian paramilitary forces, Grxhalin, 27, said Tuesday. Seventeen others were killed by police in their neighborhood just a mile outside the town center of Vucitrn, some 20 miles northwest of Prishtina, local residents said.

Too afraid to re-enter Studime, where Serbian forces still held sway Tuesday, Grxhalin and a group of frightened ethnic Albanian Kosovars emerged from hiding just outside Vucitrn as they recounted one of the largest massacres reported so far in the killing fields of Kosova.

Grxhalin said two large contingents of the Yugoslav army and police came to Studime on May 2 and assembled about 20,000 people from 70 villages and hamlets in a road running through the town.

He said the villagers were instructed to remain there until 9 a.m. the next day. But that night, he said, paramilitary forces wearing black masks, headbands and bandoleers of ammunition arrived on the scene, turned on powerful lights and told the villagers to get onto their tractors and into their trucks and form a convoy that would go to Vucitrn.

"When everybody was in the trucks, they started shooting," Grxhalin said. "One of my brothers was driving our truck, and they ordered him out and executed him. In all, they killed 11 members of my family.

"They took money from some people in exchange for letting them live. Altogether, I think they stole about 18,000 deutsche marks ($10,000).

"They started taking the children off the trucks, and when they did I managed to leap off and run away. I escaped into the hills, and from there I could see our village burning. They burned about half the houses in at least 10 villages."

The next day, he said, he and other survivors came down from the hills and, together with members of the Kosova Liberation Army who were hiding in the hills, buried the 140 who had been killed.

Grxhalin said most survivors of the massacre have lived since in the hills, surviving on a meager ration of potatoes and bread.

Bujar Begiri, 24, said he came down from the hills only Monday, after living there for four months with 50 men, women and children. He said they had only black bread and corn, given to them by the KLA.

Grxhalin advised it was unsafe to visit Studime because he said the area was still controlled by Serbs. He and other villagers expressed anger that NATO troops still have not arrived in their area, and when a Tribune correspondent drove into the village the people drew back in fear, thinking he was a Serbian police officer.

Grxhalin's brother-in-law, Bekim Grxhalin, said he went to Studime on Monday with a group of people who found two bodies in the town well. He said they were so badly decomposed it was impossible to determine whether they were male or female.

A spokesman for the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague told the Tribune that investigators had a preliminary report of the massacre at Studime and would go there when it is safe.

He said that several other sites around Kosova also have been marked for investigation.

Also on May 2, according to villagers, police drove into their neighborhood just outside Vucitrn and opened fire, killing three men and a woman. Then, 10 days ago, they said police beat a man who had a withered right arm with their rifle butts, chased him down a road and shot him.

The man lay in the road for two hours, screaming, but everyone was afraid to come out of their houses to help him, they said. Finally, he died.

Three weeks ago, according to villagers, police came to the house of one of the village leaders at 7 a.m. and shot dead all 12 members of his family, the youngest a girl of 2. The family name was Seltkin.