US: 10 000 Albanians killed

Los Angeles Times - Thursday, December 9, 1999

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON--The State Department estimated today that 10,000 Kosovar Albanians were killed in a Serb campaign of atrocities and ethnic cleansing early this year in Kosovo, but said the true number may never be known.
     It also said more than 1.5 million Albanians were forcibly expelled from their homes, tens of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed and an unknown number of other atrocities committed from March through June by the forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
     "This report is only a snapshot of the Milosevic regime's brutal, premeditated and systematic campaign to expel many Kosovar Albanians from their homeland," said the report called "Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: An Accounting."
     In a June report, the department had said at least 6,000 Kosovar Albanians were victims of mass murder, an unknown number died in individual killings, and an unknown number of bodies burned or destroyed by Serbian forces throughout the conflict.
     In today's follow-up report, the department said it had gathered new information from accounts by refugees, the press and relief and other agencies working in Kosovo at the time, as well as declassified information from government and international organizations.
     "The evidence is also now clear that Serbian forces conducted a systematic campaign to burn or destroy bodies, or to bury the bodies, then rebury them to conceal evidence of Serbian crimes," the report said.
     "The number of victims whose bodies have been burned or destroyed may never be known," the report said. "But enough evidence has emerged to conclude that probably around 10,000 Kosovar Albanians were killed by Serbian forces."
     The 100 -page report said "death represents only one facet of Serbian actions in Kosovo," noting what it said were numerous reports of rape, detentions and incidents in which refugees were used as human shields.
     The report follows one issued last week by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which said revenge-motivated violence has accelerated since NATO-led peacekeepers arrived in Kosovo following the summer air campaign against Milosevic's government.
     Such retribution has escalated in the last six months -the vast majority by ethnic Albanians seeking revenge against Serbs and other minorities. The report said one of the worst examples occurred in the U.S.-controlled sector of Gnjilane, which had been largely untouched by the war. When the OSCE returned to Gnjilane in June only one house had been destroyed, but by October, 280 homes had been burned or destroyed.

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