The innocent die. Kosovo weeps. Nato talks

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The Independent Online
THE BODIES of the victims of the massacre of ethnic Albanians in the village of Racak, Kosovo, at the weekend were laid out in its tiny mosque yesterday. Fathers and sons were laid side by side. The sound of women's wailing filled the air.

As the villagers mourned their loved ones, Serb security forces - those same forces that had butchered those loved ones two days before - took their positions overlooking Racak.

Serbian authorities maintain that the dead were armed members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which is fighting for independence from Serbia. But there were no uniforms and the bodies bore the signs of summary execution, not of a battle.

Inside the mosque, in a scene almost unbearable in its poignancy, a grandfather showed a little boy one body in particular among the dozens laid out on the floor. The dead man was the son of the old man, and the father of the boy.

Outside, inconsolable after what she had seen inside the makeshift mortuary, a little girl was shouting over and over: "They killed my father. They killed my father."

One woman was beside herself with grief and rocking back and forth on her knees as she removed a handkerchief covering the face of one of the dead. She said: "They have taken one son. I will give my three others to get our Kosovo."

Then the mourning was interrupted by cries that the Serbian police were on their way. Terrified civilians and international monitors fled for their lives, to the sound of automatic gunfire from the Serbs.

As the violence flared, ambassadors of the 16 Nato members were gathering in Brussels to consider a response to the massacre. The Nato secretary- general, Javier Solana, warned that the alliance "will not tolerate a return to all-out fighting and a policy of repression in Kosovo".

The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, speaking before the emergency Nato meeting, said he was "deeply shocked and distressed" by what had happened in Racak. He dismissed claims by Serb authorities that its forces had been in a battle with the villagers.

"It was clearly not a battle. They were shot in the head at short range. The observers saw no evidence of fighting," Mr Cook told BBC radio.

"We know from our observers that some of the victims are women, there is one child and many of them were old men and they were all unarmed. It will not stand up as a defence that they were members of the KLA," he said.

Bill Neely, page 10