Serbs killed 44 members of one family

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The Independent Online
FEHMI MUCOLLI stood amid the charred ruins of his home yesterday and mourned the 44 members of his family massacred there by Serbian police.

The toll is agonising, starting with his wife Hasime, son Avdulla, sister Nexhmije, sister-in-law, niece, and two nephews. For 36-year-old Mr Mucolli, yesterday was a grim day of pilgrimage to the remains of his family compound in the once-prosperous village of Stari Poklek, 15 miles west of the capital, Pristina.

This mass killing on 17 April is among the worst of the atrocities so far documented in Kosovo. In all, 53 villagers were murdered, and the Serbs even dumped two bodies in the well to poison the local drinking water.

There is little left of the Mucolli home where Serbs gathered most of the women and children, riddled them with automatic weapons fire, then set them ablaze.

What is left is poignant - scorched bones, jewellery, children's marbles, burnt shoes, broken glass, shards of red roof tiles and twisted, spent rounds and cartridge cases from Kalashnikov rifles.

Only six villagers survived. Elhame Mucolli, 14, jumped out of a window as the shooting began. By some near-miracle Fehmi Mucolli's elderly father, Ramadan, also escaped. A Human Rights Watch spokesman said 23 of the victims were under 15. Mr Mucolli and a fellow villager, Fadil Mucolli, who also lost family, say 24 children werekilled, the oldest aged 14, the youngest just six months.

Ben Ward, a Kosovo researcher for the New York-based rights group, said in Pristina: "Our field visit to these villages near Glogovac confirmed the testimony we took from Kosovar refugees in Macedonia, and indicates the scale of the killing was worse than we understood before."

The village is on a grassy hill with a clear view of the bombed Feronikl factory in Glogovac,fortified by Serb police and used as their base for 18 months of terror. To the south, the main road links Pristina with the western city of Pec. The police manned a heavily protected checkpoint at the intersection where the north-south road to Glogovac hits the east- west road from Pristina to Pec. This is a strategic area.

But the other reason these villagers bore the Serbian wrath was that this central Drenica region of Kosovo was the birthplace and stronghold of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Many men from this village, including Mr Mucolli, were KLA.

Returning Kosovars are discovering still more massacres. In Glogovac yesterday, two young men told us of a mass grave they found on Monday in Moker Mal, a village seven miles from Glogovac. Serbs had thrown 11 bodies into trenches. Recent heavy rain brought the bodies floating to the surface.

In the years before the murderous conflict began, the Drenica area was known as one of the province's most fertile farming areas. Fresh pears and apples have fallen on the ruined compound where so many of the Mucolli family were killed. The Serbs, say Fadil Mucolli, even killed all the chickens, except for one. Yesterday she was pecking round the compound trailed by five noisy little chicks.

Steve Crawshaw

Review, page 5