War In The Balkans: Scores of male bodies piled in heaps

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS OF terrified women and children fled across the border from Kosovo into Albania last night, reporting what may turn out to be the province's worst massacre so far.

Scores of dead male bodies were seen heaped on the road in a village near Djakovica, a place that has already seen some of the most brutal deportations and where many ethnic Albanian women have allegedly been raped at gunpoint by Serb soldiers. The United Nations refugee agency was treating the reports very seriously, because so many refugees all fleeing what seems to be a renewed Serb campaign to drive them out of Kosovo gave alarmingly similar accounts of what they saw.

"The stories seem to indicate that a lot more people have been killed over the past few days than in any other single case of attack before," said Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"We may be seeing some sort of final push here" said Ron Redmond, also for the UNHCR. "The consequences are scary," he added.

The raids on villages around Djakovica apparently took place early on Tuesday morning. Serb police - some wearing black balaclavas - rounded up men over the age of 16 and led them away or lined them up against walls, while the women and elderly men were ordered to make their way to the border.

Women said that men who tried to go with them were dragged from the tractors. The most horrifying accounts came from the village of Meje, where convoys of tractors carrying refugees who had been earlier ordered out of their homes in Madanaj were stopped and the men ordered off.

"It's a catastrophe," said one witness. "They just took the men off the tractor."

Refugees passing through the area on their way to the border later said that they saw Serb soldiers dragging corpses by their hair into the woods. Many told of seeing bodies lying in heaps on the streets. One woman said she saw at least 100 bodies, all of them men.

Muharrem Gaxharri, a 74-year-old man who arrived at the border on a wagon with his wife, said that their son, Ibrahim, was seized by the Serbs.

"They showed them [the men] a wall. They had guns and they said go there. They did not explain," he said.