MICHAEL EVANSKosovo killings estimate halved
August 19 2000
UNITED NATIONS forensic investigators searching for the bodies of ethnic Albanians murdered by Yugoslav Army and paramilitary forces in Kosovo last year now expect the final toll of confirmed killings to be between 4,000 and 5,000.
This is half the total estimated during Nato's 78-day bombing campaign. However, Graham Blewitt, deputy prosecutor at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, said yesterday that it was known that many of the bodies had been "incinerated" by the Serbs. "We will never know the full extent of the killings," he said.
The tribunal has about 200 forensic experts in Kosovo examining the remaining graves at sites where the bodies of slaughtered Albanians are known to have been buried. Mr Blewitt said the intention was to complete the work by the end of October.
He said: "At present we have exhumed in excess of 3,000 bodies, and with another three months to go, we expect the death toll to rise to between 4,000 and 5,000."
Nato was accused of exaggerating the number of killings as part of propaganda to justify the bombing campaign. Two figures were frequently quoted: 100,000 ethnic Albanians missing and 10,000 murdered by the Serbs. A Nato spokesman said yesterday that the figure of 10,000 dead had never been "an alliance estimate".
"It was a figure produced by the international community, based on a whole range of sources, including intelligence reports, interviews with refugees and witness accounts, and if it turns out that the total number of deaths is smaller, then that's very good news," the Nato spokesman said.
Mr Blewitt yesterday gave warning against a debate about numbers. The death toll, he said, was already very high and the sheer scale of the investigation still going on in Kosovo demonstrated the enormity of what was being uncovered.
Nine children were injured in a drive-by grenade attack on a Serb enclave in Kososvo last night. The attackers threw two grenades at a basketball court in the Obilic area, north of the capital, Pristina.