War In The Balkans: Serbs `massacred 300 men from one town'

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The Independent Online
IN THE bloodiest massacre described so far by refugees fleeing Kosovo, Serb troops and police are reported to have murdered as many as 300 Albanians forced to leave their homes on Tuesday.

Refugees said that one week earlier, the Kosovo Liberation Army had ambushed a car in Meja village, killing five policemen and an officer.

According to the traumatised refugees now camped in Kukes, across the border from Kosovo, the day-long slaughter claimed the lives of more than 300 ethnic Albanian men trying to move with their families to safety in Albania.

On Tuesday, 27 April, thousands of people were ordered out of their homes in villages around the southern Kosovan town of Djakovica and told to head for Albania. The minor road they were travelling on passes through Meja, a small village where dozens of soldiers and police, some wearing masks, were gathered.

Had Mehmeti, a woman whose husband, Ram, and 17-year-old son are missing, feared dead, described how the Serbs stopped their tractors, checking for men and ordering them out.

By 11am, more than 100 men had been detained, according to Muharrem Gaxharri, whose son Ibrahim, 38, was taken by the Serbs. "They showed them a wall. They had guns, and said go there. They did not explain," he added. This continued all day.

At 5pm Mrs Mehmeti and her family reached the village, hitching a ride in a stranger's tractor. Many dead were piled up in the centre of Meja, beside the road. "The Serbs forced my son to get out first ... and then my husband. They pushed them over to another man, and made them stand in a line," Mrs Mehmeti said.

Some 30 minutes later, the last of the convoy straggled through. "We saw a collection of bodies thrown on top of each other - maybe 300 people who were killed," said Zizi Salihu. "Nearby, we saw another 50 men, kneeling ...

As Mrs Salihu passed the men who had been detained, kneeling on the ground, she recognised the Mehmetis, father and son. She has no idea what happened to her own husband.

"As we were leaving we heard some shots fired but we are not sure if they were really killed, or if the Serbs were just doing it to frighten us."