Red Cross says 3 000 still missing in Kosovo

GENEVA, Feb 26, 2000 -- (Reuters) Nearly 3,000 people are still missing in Kosovo, the vast majority ethnic Albanians, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday.

The Swiss-based humanitarian agency said it had asked Serb authorities in Belgrade and Kosovo Albanian leaders in Pristina this week to help clarify the fate of those unaccounted for.

The missing comprise 2,400 Kosovo Albanians and 400 ethnic Serbs with the remainder Roma or other minorities, according to Pierre Kraehenbuehl, head of ICRC's taskforce for the Balkans.

"We hope the authorities will provide answers that can shed light on the fate of those missing," he told a news briefing in Geneva. "The uncertainty has been traumatizing for the families.

"As in Bosnia, exhumations will lead to further clarifications and some cases of further confirmed deaths."

The ICRC has no figure for the number killed in the conflict. The United States estimates that Serb forces killed about 10,000 Kosovo Albanians between March and June 1999. International investigators said in November they had unearthed 2,108 bodies from nearly 200 grave sites in Kosovo.

In all, 4,434 people were reported missing by their families between January 1998 and the end of the conflict in the Serbian province in June 1999, according to an ICRC statement.

It has clarified the fate of 1,447 people, including 102 confirmed dead. Most of the rest were tracked down in prisons.

Of the 2,987 people who remain unaccounted for in Kosovo, 1,875 were reportedly arrested by the Yugoslav armed and security forces or abducted by Serb civilians. Some 346 were allegedly abducted by the Kosovo Liberation Army or by Kosovo Albanian civilians. There is no information on the circumstances of the disappearance of the other 766 people, the ICRC said.

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