War in The Balkans: Soldiers aid men hurt in minefield

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The Independent Online
BRITISH AND French soldiers have rescued three Kosovo Albanian refugees badly injured in a minefield as they tried to flee from Kosovo into Macedonia.

The Nato soldiers could only watch helplessly from their observation posts as they saw the three men running into the minefield in the Presevo Valley, just across the border inside Yugoslavia.

The British and French soldiers - under the guns of watching Serbian soldiers in their trenches a mile away - picked up the three wounded men and gave them emergency medical aid before civilian doctors and ambulances arrived.

A military source said yesterday: "It was a terrible sight for the men at their posts. They could only watch as the refugees ran into the crop fields, unaware they were mined. The wounded refugees managed to crawl into a nearby friendly Albanian village and the troops rushed over to help. They used their battlefield medical training until a civilian doctor arrived and the injured men were taken to hospital by ambulance."

The incident, late last week, highlights the dangers posed by the extensive mining of the borderlands by Serb forces. Nato soldiers will have to negotiate these minefields if and when they go into Kosovo.

n A 19-year-old student from Kosovo, one of more than 840,000 ethnic Albanians who have fled or been forced out of the war-torn province, has been crowned Miss Albania. "This shows that Kosovo and Albania are one," said the emotional winner, Venera Mustafa, after the contest at the weekend.

She said her greatest desire was to return to Kosovo as soon as possible. Her hometown is the provincial capital, Pristina. This was the first time an ethnic Albanian from neighbouring Kosovo has taken part in a Miss Albania contest.