Albanians collect mines hoping Nato will buy them

KUKES, Apr 26, 2000 -- (Reuters) Albanians living near the border with Kosovo are collecting mines planted by Serb forces last year, hoping to sell them to NATO, according to local officials.

Serb forces planted thousands of mines inside Albania to prevent ethnic Albanian guerrillas fighting for independence for Kosovo from entering the province during the conflict which ended in June last year.

Once the snow thawed in the mountain pastures, shepherds started clearing the anti-infantry and anti-tank mines to prevent cattle being blown up, local officials told Reuters.

But word spread that NATO was interested in buying them and many in the northern Kukes and Has areas began collecting them - although NATO has never offered to pay for them.

"The villagers are gathering mines in the pastures and mountains and storing them at home because they think they will sell them one day, maybe to NATO," said Agim Bardhoshi, a local customs officer.

Mehmet Dani, 80, said he had some 180 mines at his home but added: "I have gathered them to clear the pasture not to sell them."

The mines last week claimed their 125th casualty in Albania when Adem Sopi, 25, trod on a mine and lost his leg. Twelve people have been killed by Serb mines in Albania since the Kosovo conflict began two years ago.

Original article