War In The Balkans: Refugees lie slaughtered in the road. But who takes the blame? are their killers? killed them?

NATO AND Serbia traded accusations last night over who was responsible for a rocket attack on two refugee convoys in Kosovo that killed at least 60 Albanian civilians.

Accusing Nato of a "crime against humanity", the Serbs said allied jets attacked the convoys of tractors and cars travelling under Serb "escort" yesterday between the western cities of Prizren and Djakovica, and arranged for a Reuters photographer to visit the scene.

The photographer filmed blood-stained bodies lying on a road near abandoned tractors. Pillows and blankets were scattered around as well as human remains.

The Serb Media Centre, based in the Kosovo capital of Pristina, said the first column of about 1,000 Albanians was hit twice near the village of Meja, close to Djakovica, while the second smaller column was hit on the road between Prizren and Djakovica. "In the village of Meja, 64 people were killed and 20 wounded including three Serb policemen who were escorting the convoy," it said. "In the village of Zrze, six people were killed and 11 wounded."

Belgrade exulted openly over what it hopes will prove a fatal Nato blunder. "I don't think those people in Brussels are going to get away with this," said Miodrag Popovic, Serbian Information Minister.

But the Pentagon insisted Nato had struck a military convoy on the Prizren- Djakovica road and suggested the Serbs themselves had bombarded another convoy travelling behind their vehicles in retaliation, or had attacked the refugees on the ground.

The Pentagon spokesman, Kenneth Bacon, said Nato planes had hit a Yugoslav army convoy at 15.30 local time. The pilots had been questioned "and believe they hit only military vehicles". But Nato had also received "verbal reports" that after the convoy was hit, Serb military personnel "got out and attacked civilians ... there may be imagery, film, of that".

The Pentagon said later, quoting Nato, that the pilots had cut short their attack on the convoy when they realised it contained civilians and believe they struck only the military targets. The US claims will revive fears that the Serbs are employing Albanian civilians in Kosovo as "human shields" against air strikes. Washington believes the Serbs are using the forced deportations of Albanians to move tanks and other military equipment around the province and that the refugees are "tacked on", or sandwiched in between, the Serb army vehicles.

In Brussels, the alliance admitted attacking "military targets" in the Prizren-Djakovica area but said it would need to scrutinise the film brought back by the returning planes before making further comment.

Nato's spokesman, Jamie Shea, said it was possible the Serbs had carried out the attack themselves, as they had been using low-flying aircraft in the province.

International observers in Albania, based over the border from Djakovica, expressed some scepticism at the Serbian version of events. They said the refugees' reports were confused and could mean either Serbia or Nato was responsible. "We are hearing that a helicopter went by and threw grenades out; we're hearing reports that a MiG flew by and bombed the column," said Owen O'Sullivan, a monitor with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, based in the northern Albanian town of Kukes.

The monitor said he was "most surprised" that none of the wounded civilians had crossed into Kukes, as the town is so near the scene of the reported attack.

Refugees who did cross the Albanian border at Morini last night confirmed they had seen the ruins of the convoy but did not know who was responsible. One man said: "We saw the destroyed tractors by the side of the road. There were at least 10 bodies. Some did not have heads or arms or legs." He added: "There were three planes in the attack, but we did not see them well enough to know what sort they were." However, another man crossing later claimed the convoy was attacked by Serbian MiGs

Tony Blair said he feared a human tragedy was being manipulated by the propaganda machine of the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic. "You can't take at face value any claim made by the Serb authorities; everything they do, they use for propaganda purposes," he said. "We go to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties at all times. The responsibility for anything that happens to people in this conflict rests with Milosevic."

If Nato does turn out to have massacred the Kosovars, it will - at least temporarily - deal a big blow to the alliance's credibility and undermine its claim to be taking the greatest possible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. It will also embarrass the guerrilla fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army who have been working in close connection with Nato and supposedly informing it of potential targets in Kosovo.

Yesterday's reported attacks follow Monday's mistaken strike on a train near the southern Serbian town of Leskovac, in which 27 civilians are now said to have been killed.

Nato's Supreme Commander, General Wesley Clark, said it was an "uncanny accident" that a train was crossing the bridge at the very moment Nato was trying to bomb it.

While the alliance was put on the defensive, the spotlight was entirely taken off the Serbs' continuing campaign of ethnic cleansing in the province. Yesterday the Serbs herded another 3,000 Albanian civilians to the frontier with Macedonia.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, said 525,000 Kosovo refugees were now outside Kosovo, but it was not known how many remained inside. "We don't know exactly how many there are because many of them have left, and were forced to leave," she said.

Suggested Topics
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Swimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
moneyForbes 400 list released
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
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

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

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