The War in the Balkans: Rocket attacks force refugees to abandon Albania

Evacuation

THE EVACUATION of tens of thousands of Kosovo refugees from northern Albania has been stepped up because of the threat of Serb rocket attacks.

After tension increased at the border between Albania and Kosovo, the UN High Commission for Refugees is applying pressure for up to 110,000 Kosovars at camps in Kukes to board buses and helicopters and head south.

The UNHCR said no one would be moved under duress, but yesterday about 100 bewildered people were removed from a mosque and put on board buses by police against their wishes.

The UNHCR's anxiety has been fuelled by Serb attacks on Kosovo Liberation Army camps inside Albania in Tropoje, Dobrun and Krume in which cluster- style rockets were aimed at - but missed - their targets.

Owen O'Sullivan, an observer from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, at Kukes, said Serb rockets have a range of 50km, while the group of about 10 camps in and around Kukes are less than 15km from the border.

On Tuesday, there was a 12-hour firefight near Quafa Prushit, in Albania, after Serb forces attempted to ambush members of an Albanian army patrol and take them hostage.

"We are very concerned about the security situation in respect of the Kukes district," said Nicholas Morris, the UNHCR special envoy for the former Yugoslavia and Albania. "While we understand an increasing reluctance on the part of many refugees to go down [south] we believe it is extremely important for them to go.

"The first time a shell, God forbid, lands here ... the first question you would ask my team is why we had not foreseen such an event."

Yesterday Nato flew 112 sick and elderly people and their families to Peshkopi in Chinook helicopters after much confusion. The refugees were kept sitting for more than two hours in five trucks in a field, surrounded by armed Italian soldiers. The spectacle was made more embarrassing when the Italian troops put on rubber gloves when they were required to touch the Kosovars.

Conditions at the camps are growing intolerable because of cold weather and intermittent rain. Nevertheless, many want to wait for missing relatives or to safeguard the tractors they arrived in.

Hassan Gashi and his wife, Hyrishahe, both 33, have been living on the back of their tractor with their three children for two weeks. Mr Gashi said: "I am not leaving without my tractor - it's all we have left. If we are forced to go and leave it behind, I am sure it will be stolen."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes