Massacre of 19 took 'less than minute'

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The Independent Online

A member of a crack Serbian police unit testified yesterday against one of his former comrades accused of massacring three ethnic Albanian families during the 1999 Kosovo conflict.

Goran Stoparic, the former member of the notorious Scorpions unit, told a court: "It took less than a minute, as an automatic rifle shoots 150 bullets per minute. Yes, they were all dead in less than a minute."

Nineteen ethnic Albanians were shot by his comrades in March, 1999 in the small town of Podujevo, in Kosovo. Eight of them were children, the youngest less than two.

Mr Stoparic took the stand in a court in Belgrade against Sasa Cvjetan, 29, who denies the war crime committed four days after the start of Nato air raids aimed at ending the Serb government crackdown against the province's independence-seeking ethnic Albanians. He is the only one out of a group of four who is in custody.

Four children survived the massacre of three families. Last July, one survivor, Saranda Bogujevci, who now lives in Manchester, said she recognised Mr Cvjetan as one of the men who fired. Ms Bogujevci, 18, came to Belgrade to testify.

Mr Stoparic said he was standing in an alley that led to a yard, where the police had rounded up some two dozen people. He said he heard sudden bursts of automatic fire. As he tried to enter the yard to see what was going on, Mr Cvjetan and three other Scorpions bumped into him, hurriedly reloading their weapons. "Someone said, 'They're all dead'", Mr Stoparic said. "No screams, no cries came from that yard, and it puzzled me whenever I thought about it."

Several feet away in the court Enver Durici, who lost his father, mother, wife and four children, wept. Earlier, Mr Durici had shown the court his wife's watch with a bullet hole in it, and marbles his children had been playing with just before the attack.

Mr Stoparic described himself yesterday as "a walking target", because he testified.

The trial continues. (AP)