`Some Serb soldiers laughed, some cried'

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The Independent Online
IN THE streets of Pristina yesterday, the long wait for Nato bombs stretched everybody's nerves to the limit. But despite their fears, most ethnic Albanians were jubilant that the West had woken to their plight.

"I think he will sign the peace deal now," a shopkeeper said of President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia as bombs began to fall. "Even if he doesn't, I don't care. We've had it up to here."

On the outskirts of Kosovo's provincial capital, we watched Yugoslav army convoys fanning out across the plains. To minimise the chances of being hit by Nato air attacks, the army was scattering troops and equipment.

"Look, there are thousands of them - armoured personnel carriers, troop carriers, tanks - going towards Mitrovica, Prizren and Kosovo Polje," said Adelina, an Albanian living on the edge of Pristina, as she watched from her balcony. She said later that she had even heard the soldiers: "Some were laughing; some crying."

Back in the city, tension was high. The rumoured arrival of Serbian paramilitary leaders raised the anxiety level of foreign journalists and ethnic Albanians alike.

The police and army offered protection, but we were still afraid that the paramilitaries who murdered thousands of Croats and Bosnian Muslims were now descending on Pristina, their masked gunmen poised to wreak revenge on Serbia's enemies, be they Albanian or foreign.

"People are scared, really scared," said Emina, an Albanian woman. "We are afraid of our Serbian neighbours and of the Serbian police."

Nearby, armed police backed by armoured personnel carriers were stopping cars and checking papers. I saw police drag a driver out of his car, beat him up, handcuff him and toss him in the back of a police car.

It was then that we decided to leave Pristina, despite a feeling that we were abandoning the residents to a grim fate."Everyone is afraid the police will enter their houses and massacre them," said Besar Tushi, whose cousin was killed on Monday night by a grenade thrown at a cafe. "Nato can do nothing to stop that."