Liberation of Kosovo: Photos reveal mass murder by Serb troops

Emma Daly,Kosovo
Thursday 01 July 1999 23:02

GERMAN SOLDIERS were guarding the village of Celine, north of Prizren, yesterday after United Nations war crimes investigators uncovered a complex of graves containing more than 100 bodies of murdered people.

At the largest site, a few cloth flowers were stuck in a large mound of earth, marking the spot where 21 people were killed by Serbian forces while hiding in a glade close to their homes. Hamdi Fazliu crept down to the area each night after watching Serbian forces leave, then finally in daylight, when the troops moved on.

Yesterday he displayed the photographs of the hideous scene: a baby, a child, men and women lying clothed, dead, eyes wide open. One picture showed at least 14 bodies clustered together.

"I took these photographs two weeks later," Mr Fazliu said, shortly before villagers buried the dead. "I'm sorry I did not make any more pictures, but I had no more film."

A red-and-white checked cloth, visible in the photos, still lay on the path beside the grave. All around was the debris of the three families trying to hide out: bedding, clothing, a toothbrush stamped into the mud, a child's pink purse marked "Elba", a child's trainer, damp passports and ID cards.

"That is my uncle, he was 55 years old, and that's his wife," said Beqir Zeqiri, gazing at one of the photographs.

"We knew about the killing the first day," Mr Fazliu said, "because there was one survivor and he came to tell us." He explained that about 3,500 villagers were hiding in the hills when Serbian forces swept through at the end of March. It seems they killed more than 100 people in Celine alone.

Celine stands on the road from Djakovica to Prizren, very close to Velika Krusa and Bela Crkva, sites already identified by the UN war crimes tribunal as the scene of massacres. Yesterday a forensic science team, including officers from Scotland Yard, performed autopsies on 32 bodies exhumed from the main Bela Crkva site as passers-by stopped to see what was going on.

One man, Zeki Spahiu, had returned home to find his sister's body in the garden. He stopped to try to report the horrible news - but in this part of the world, a single body tends to be swamped by the multiple murders identified in almost every town and village.

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