Liberation Of Kosovo: Looting: Nato watches Kosovars strip village clean

BRITISH AND French troops stood and watched as looters pillaged and burned a Serb village yesterday, making a mockery of Nato's claim that it is providing security for both Serbs and Albanians.

Serbs in the village of Grece, 10 miles north of the Kosovo capital Pristina, had apparently been warned on Saturday night by returning Albanians that they should leave immediately. Early yesterday morningdozens of tractors and trailers arrived in the tiny village and the Albanians set about taking anything they could find.

As well as the obvious items such as televisions and washing machines, the Albanians loaded their vehicles with bricks, roof tiles, bags of cement and sacks of animal feed. The looters even ripped out door frames and doors - anything they could use to rebuild their own ravaged homes and farms. As soon as they had emptied each house of everything they wanted, they set it alight.

A group of French troops in armoured vehicles sat and watched. At one point they even helped the looters - assisting them to back out the tractors piled high with booty to allow the next ones in. When asked why they were doing nothing, the soldiers said it was not their problem: this was a British-controlled sector.

The British were no better. At the end of a track a few hundred yards from the village, soldiers - again in armoured vehicles - sat smoking cigarettes as the morning air turned acrid with smoke. Their excuse was equally poor - "We can do nothing - this is the French-controlled zone," said one. When it was pointed out that this was not true the soldiers claimed that with their "available resources" they could do little.

Yesterday evening Grece was still smouldering, pigs were running loose in the carefully tended vegetable gardens and clothes and food packets were strewn around the courtyards.

A Nato spokesman in Pristina said yesterday evening that the British commander on the ground had taken the decision not to intervene to stop the looting in order to avoid the threat to "life and limb".

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