Liberation of Kosovo: Old men and children, shot then burned


WE KNEW there would be bodies, many of them, but we thought they would be discovered in mass graves. No one was prepared for this. They were no longer even bodies, just skeletons and parts of skeletons, scattered around the floor of a stone room in this village near the southern Kosovo town.

There had been at least 20 of them, crammed into a kind of outhouse, apparently shot through the head by Serbian paramilitary police who then set the place ablaze. Some of the victims may even have survived till later, when starving dogs began to tear the bodies apart.

Dutch peace-keepers said a KLA commander had also told them about two other houses on the road from Prizren to Orahovac, in central Kosovo, where lay the bodies of more murdered Kosovo Albanians. One was said to house the remains of 11 children, the other the corpses of 30 old men

Villagers said the killing in Velika Krusa probably took place on 25 and 26 March, a day or two after the start of Nato's bombing campaign. They said the paramilitaries drove most residents from their homes but held more than 20 back.

One distraught villager said three of his cousins detained by the paramilitaries were among the dead. Villagers returning to their homes yesterday, held back by a Nato cordon, wept and screamed as they realised what had happened to their missing relatives.

"It was a horror, just a horror," said the Dutch soldier who discovered the bodies yesterday while looking for mines or booby traps. He could barely get the words out. "There was a leg here, an arm there, a torso. You can't tell whether they were men, women or children. I was expecting the worst in Kosovo. But not this. Nothing like this. It was not pretty," he said.

For him, and journalists who came later, the horror took a minute or two to register, as bones distinguished themselves from other charred debris. This looked like a black-and-white photograph that had yellowed with age. Then the soldier pointed to the first skeleton, apparently intact, just inside the door. Then a rib cage caught the eye, then a leg bone, then a skull.

The Dutch and German soldiers who shut off the site would not let journalists investigate how the people had been killed. But a Dutch officer, Colonel Pieter Van Den Aker, said: "They were shot, then set on fire." Soldiers of the Dutch artillery battalion are serving as part of the German force assigned to secure southern Kosovo.

The charred skeletons were inside a room of about 20ft square, burnt- out but for an old steel stove. Only the stone walls, once white but now almost black, remained. In the patio between the building and the nearby house, two other intact skeletons lay beside a tractor. Their posture, arms and legs protruding upwards, suggested they may have been alive when they were set alight. It was a posture familiar to journalists who had seen Buddhists set themselves on fire.

"It was a sad day for us, a very sad day," said Colonel Van Den Aker.

Some survivors say the notorious Serb paramilitary warlord, Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan, was the man behind the massacre. He and his feared "Tigers" have been accused of perpetrating a string of atrocities in Kosovo. He denied it yesterday.

"I only defended my people," he said. "No Tiger did even one of these atrocities and [we] did not kill any innocent civilians. We only kill in a set fight."

Asked who was responsible, he replied: "How can I know, when I am living in Belgrade?"

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales - OTE to £45,000

£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a leading supplier of bu...

Recruitment Genius: Installation Engineer - Driveway

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative, fast growing f...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Project Manager - Technical

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a Jun...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral