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
Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
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

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style