War in the Balkans: `Boys forced to give blood'

Atrocities
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The Independent Online
THE WESTERN alliance accused the Serbian army yesterday of setting up rape camps for ethnic Albanian women and forcing young Albanian boys to donate blood for Serb casualties.

The Nato spokesman Jamie Shea also said men from Kosovo were being used as human shields for Serb tanks and were made to dig mass graves to bury fellow refugees killed by Serbs during "ethnic cleansing" operations.

Mr Shea's account was one of the most comprehensive summaries of allegations of atrocities provided by the alliance. None of the information can be independently confirmed because Serbia has banned Western journalists from Kosovo, except when they are brought in under Serb escort for hand-picked events. Most of it comes from refugees or from Kosovo guerrillas using satellite phones.

Mr Shea said many refugees told of rapes in the western Kosovo towns of Pec and Djakovica. Women sent to an army camp near Djakovica were repeatedly raped by Serb soldiers, he said. In Pec, the headquarters of the Serbian church, Serb forces had turned a hotel into a brothel imprisoning Albanian women.

"The commander apparently has organised a roster of his soldiers to allow them all an evening at the hotel," he said.

Refugees also said the Serbs had taken hundreds of boys as young as 14 "either to use as human shields or as blood banks for Serb casualties".

Others said 700 men had been used as human shields last week near the town of Orahovac in central Kosovo. "The ethnic Albanian men were forced to stand in front of tanks in the rain for two days with their hands tied behind their heads," Mr Shea said. "A few escaped by paying the soldiers 10,000 Deutschmarks.

"These atrocity reports are too numerous to suggest they are without foundation."

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