Thousands of Kosovar Albanians commemorate Racak massacre

RACAK, Yugoslavia, Jan 17, 2000 -- (AFP) Several thousand Kosovar Albanians congregated in this Kosovo village Saturday to pay their respects to 45 victims of a massacre carried here out a year ago and attributed to Serbian security forces.

Wreaths and messages of condolences covered the graves in Racak, 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Kosovo's provincial capital of Pristina.

Hashim Thaci, the former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, told the crowd: "Racak marks a turning point in the history of Kosovo."

At a ceremony a few hours earlier, he said that it wad the killings that had convinced people of the need for military intervention in Kosovo.

At the school in Racak an exhibition of photographs showed several of the victims, some horribly mutilated.

Serbian security forces are widely believed to have killed 45 Racak villagers, including women, children and elderly men, on January 15, 1999 in the town.

William Walker, head of an OSCE team monitoring the Kosovo ceasefire, angered Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and many Serbs when he hinted Serbian security forces were responsible.

In Pristina, meanwhile, the head of a team of Finnish forensic investigators investigating the killings told AFP Saturday they were close to establishing what happened.

"I believe that we are very close to the truth," said Helena Ranta.

She added that while it would be impossible to state with absolute certainty what happened, enough evidence had been assembled to favor one scenario over the two they had considered.

Ranta said they would put together a new report with the new evidence they had been able to gather. A report issued last March was not able to say what had happened.

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