December 10, 1999
Continued from page 1.
A man and his wife, deported from Pristina on April 1:
" We were forced to leave our house after the police made their way in and broke everything. During that time, the police assembled all the inhabitants in a square. After two hours we were allowed to return to our homes. We tried to put things back in order. Then, two hours later, the police returned with guns and told them to leave. We didn't have the time to take anything with us; we were forced to leave immediately. There were about 1000 people walking in a convoy in the street. We had to walk for two hours to reach the train station. The police officers and military personnel who were there insulted us and beat us. At the station there were thousands of people waiting. The police and the army tried to collect identity papers and would destroy them. They also stole money."
A woman and her daughter were forced to leave Pristina on April 4: "The only people left were those who lived in the center of Pristina; everywhere else was empty. Masked men forced us to leave our home and walk to the train station. They were going from house to house and telling everyone to leave. There was a train waiting for us at the station and it left right away. We were travelling for two hours. At the border, we had to stay in the train for hours. When we were allowed to leave, they opened the doors and told us to walk on the tracks because the road was mined."
A 69 year old man, who has fled to Albania with 25 members of his family
"We had been afraid for a month now: there were lots of soldiers, paramilitaries and police in the region; we hid during the day and only went back to our houses at night time to eat and sleep. We haven't been able to change our clothes for a month. At 10 in the morning, on Friday, the Serbian police came into the village in very large numbers. They shouted at us to leave our houses immediately otherwise they would throw grenades. They told us that if we tried to run away they would kill us. In one house a man was killed in front of his whole family. We were gathered up in the center of the village, in front of the school. We waited there about 40 minutes, then the Serbs told us to take the road to Albania. 3 or 4 people stayed in the village who were too old or sick to travel. There were lots of soldiers all along the road with tanks; they told us "you were the ones who wanted these bombings so you can go straight to Albania"; almost all the houses were burned down. Those that weren't burned down were occupied by the soldiers. With several thousand others we walked to the border were we arrived at 3 in the morning. The Serbian customs asked us for money: 50 DM to be able to keep our car; others asked for 100 DM or even 1000 DM depending on how much we had, they took everything. They also took all out identity papers: driving licences, identity cards, and passports, and tore them up. Very few managed to hide them and keep them. Some police and paramilitaries who were from our region and who we knew were masked so they could not be identified."
A woman of 27 who came to Albania with 26 members of her family: "On the morning of 9th April, the soldiers and police came into our houses and started shooting. There were a lot of them (maybe 300), some were masked, others not. They were in 3 circles around the village, with tanks; they had machine-guns and automatic weapons. They separated the men from the women and children and gave us 10 minutes to leave the village. "This is Serbia, go, get out of here, you will NEVER be coming back" they shouted at us.
A week before this, the Serbian police had confiscated all the weapons from the men of the our village and told them to leave. They said that if they heard a single shot fired in our village, they would kill everyone. But we stayed until 9th April and when we really had to leave, we weren't able to take anything with us. The men were lined up against a wall in the village and chained together by the soldiers. The women begged them not to kill their husbands and sons. After a few minutes the Serbs went to check the outskirts of the village, then came back and set fire to the district archives and told us to leave (the men too). Two cars were kept behind; I think they took away the men who were driving them. We wanted to go to Macedonia as this was the closest border to our village, but we were forced to follow the road to Albania. At 3 in the morning the next day we arrived there by tractor. There were an incredible number of people and soldiers all along the road. I saw a dead baby in a ditch; the baby couldn't have been more than a month old. I also saw lots of clothes abandoned along the road. I had hidden my identity papers under my clothes, but at the border, the other members of my family had to give theirs up, that they had been keeping in their pockets. My father was in a car and had to pay 200 DM to the Serbian customs to be able to drive it through into Albania."
A man aged 38 who has come to Albania with his whole family: "On 10 April, a soldier came into our house. They did the same in all the houses in the village at the same time. There were very many soldiers all masked and armed to the teeth. They came in a lorry. They beat up my son and some other men, and ordered us to go to Albania, giving us one and half hours to get there. "Go to Clinton, he'll look after you." We left as quickly as possible, taking just some clothes and blankets. There were vast numbers of soldiers in Lapushnik. The same all along the road: they were in groups roughly every 200 m. At the border they took our papers away. We weren't extorted along the way. We were all herded out. I left with all my family. The whole village has come to Albania with the exception of one family."
The Orahovac Region
Between March 26 and April 3, the population of Velika Krusa and the villages around Suva Reka (Dvaran, Grikove, Genovoc, Sapi and Salagradj) were subjected to violent attacks, killings and expulsions. In the village of Sapi and Velika Krusa, witness accounts confirm 21 summary executions of men, women and children aged 7 to 75 by police and paramilitaries.
These attacks involve police and masked men. Military resources of the Yugoslav army are also used. The population is then grouped into convoys and flanked en route by a strong military, paramilitary and police presence. The Kosovars are expelled in tractors and on foot via Prizren towards Albania. Along the way the men are often separated from the others and maltreated. Some disappear. Identity papers are systematically confiscated at the border.
* Velika Krusa
A man aged 38, who was expelled on March 28, describes one and a half days walking to Albania:
"At 7 in the morning, the police started to fire on our house. They were wearing masks. There were two armoured vehicles not far from our houses. Seven policemen came into the house. There were thirteen of us in the house. They hit me. They killed my mother who was 65 with an automatic weapon, as well as five other members of my family (aged 7 to 53). My children started screaming and crying, and everyone tried to get out of the house. The children went out through the windows. A grenade hit before my wife had the time to get out. She was injured together with my sister and sister-in-law. We managed to flee the village by tractor to Zur, where we had to continue on foot. We took ten hours to get to the border. There were lots of tractors and the convoy was very slow. In Zur there were lots of soldiers. They asked us where we were going and told us to go: "Kosovo is not your country. Get out of here. You don't belong here."
Just before Vermitza, I was picked out and taken on one side by the soldiers. They set on me with batons. Other men were also taken out of the convoy here and there by masked Serbs to be beaten. There was a commander in a lorry who gave the orders and selected people for beatings. He wore a mask but it was him who told the soldiers (in green uniforms) and the police (in blue uniforms) who to rob and who to beat. They hit me on the legs. I fell near a tractor and managed to partly hide under it, but they kept hitting me with batons, on the legs and genitals, until they were tired. This lasted about an hour. Then they went off to find others who were behind us in the convoy. I managed to drag myself on foot to the border. They took me to hospital and I had an operation. For five days I have not been able to move my leg. The doctors are waiting for the swelling on my ankle to go down before they put me in plaster."
Several villages around Suva Reka were attacked between 26th March and 3rd April.
A woman of 32 who set off with her six children, her sister and mother in law. She does not know where her husband is.
"I thought there was something going on when on 25th March, paramilitary militia set themselves up in our village. Some of my Serb neighbors joined them. We were expelled on 26th March. The Serbs came and told us we had to leave immediately. The men ran away. I don't know where they are now. The Serbs looted the house and set fire to it. We fled to the nearby village of Mustec, but the paramilitary soldiers followed us and told us to report to the police in a village further away. Because we didn't want to, they forced us to join a convoy. In the evening, we were able to stop to rest, but the next morning the paramilitaries surrounded us and forcibly made as form a convoy again on the road. There were people in our convoy who had come from villages even farther North. We were often stopped en route at what were kinds of check points. There were Serbs all along the way. The women had to hand over all their jewelry. The police and paramilitaries said to us: "You wanted Clinton's help. Go and get it. If you stay here you will die." At the border they confiscated all our identity papers."
A woman of 48, expelled on March 30: "At lunchtime, an armed policeman and soldier entered the house; we were all eating. They took our money and shouted to us to leave immediately. We were unable to take anything with us. On the road we found ourselves in a convoy. There were so many people that it moved very slowly and the police stopped us frequently. When we had stopped on one occasion, my sister asked her 7 year old son to go and look for some wood. Just as he was crossing the road a car hit him at full speed. His body was thrown 30 meters. He was very seriously injured. His stomach was open. My sister gave me her 1 year old baby to hold, and with my father they put my nephew straight away into a car to drive him to the hospital in Prizren. We have heard nothing of them since."
A woman of 15, expelled on April 2: "At 10 in the morning on 2nd April, tanks, lorries and three army and police busses entered our village. These men were not masked; only half of them got out of the lorries. They broke down the doors of the houses and started pillaging. They took the women's jewelry and money from the men. The inhabitants were expelled from their houses and driven onto the road. "You don't belong in Kosovo. Go to Albania!" Some managed to take their tractor or car. We wanted to bring blankets but they were confiscated from us. In all there were 300 houses in our village. Everyone left except for the men who left to join the KLA. Two military jeeps followed us on the road. When we looked back a bit later on, we saw that our village was in flames. Apparently a man of 50 was killed. We marched for four days and three nights. The convoy advanced very slowly. There were lots of soldiers and police driving around on lorries along the route. They took the food we had brought with us. Our identity papers were confiscated at the border."
The account of a 54-year-old woman, driven out of her village on April 2: "There had been soldiers around the village for several days. On the 2nd of April, the village was really quiet. The police came at around three o'clock. I don't know how many of them there were. We only heard two shots. At the same time the Serbian men from our village took out their weapons and put on masks and gloves. All of our family was in the living room. Five or six shots were fired at our house. The paramilitaries broke down our door and fired shots at the dog and our three cows. They entered all the houses in our village at the same time and in the same way. A man went into the kitchen and demanded money. My husband and my brother-in-law my brother-in-law tried to stop him. Then the paramilitary ordered all the family to follow immediately gave him all they had. The man took the money and left the house, then he fired at our windows. After he came back and wanted to take away my three-year old nephew but him outside and to leave for Albania.
My husband told me to take some clothes and to load them into our van. We all took what we could and got into the van to leave. My brother-in-law was in the garden. The Serbs outside asked us for money again. Suddenly, one of them shot my brother-in-law who fell down. My husband got out of the van. The Serb asked him for money, he gestured that he didn't have anymore. The Serb executed him. We started crying. The Serb went 20-30 meters away, then he came back. To make sure that my husband and brother-in-law were really dead he cut their throats. We waited until he was good distance away before we dared to take the bodies and to carry them a bit further off. We were all crying. As soon as my other nephew arrived, we left immediately.
In the center of the village, the Serbs stopped us again and threatened us with knives and weapons to make us give them money. They held a knife to the throat of one of our children. We gave them our jewelry. Later when we were on the road we found out that three of our neighbors family had been killed in the same way: a 75-year-old woman and her two sons.
On the road we saw a lot of people being beaten. The convoy moved very slowly and everyone was too frightened to stop for a rest because there were Serbs all along the road. At the border, our identity papers were confiscated. One woman from our village who had been wounded died on the journey. Her son had been killed and her husband who had been wounded is now in hospital in Kukes."
A 14-year-old girl, driven out of her village on the April 3: "Our village was surrounded by police and paramilitaries. They started throwing grenades; my father and my uncle fled immediately. None of the family knows where they are now. The police told us to leave. We just had time to take some things and to load them on to the tractor, but later on the road the Serbian soldiers took them from us. We spent three days and nights in a convoy on the road. There were a lot of soldiers, paramilitaries and police along the road, they were all wearing masks. The convoy moved very slowly: every 50 meters, the Serbs stopped us. They wanted money and the women's jewelry, or to ask us where we were going so they could make fun of us and insult us. On the first night we were able to stop to sleep on the roadside. The next day my uncle had to hand over his car. The Serbs were systematically taking the "best" cars. We all went on in the tractor. At one point, we saw the body of a child who had been crushed by a tank. The child must have been about six years old. My uncle and some other people organized a burial. At the border, our money was confiscated."
The Prizren Area
There have been accounts of attacks on several localities around Prizren (Donaj, Malsi ere...) and on Prizren itself between March 30 and April 16. The population of the area was rounded up in Prizren before being driven into Albania. The men were kept back to dig trenches and to set up military installations. All the Prizren refugees' identity papers were confiscated at the Albanian border.
The account of a 27-year-old man who fled with all the members of his family :
"Truckloads of police, soldiers and paramilitaries arrived on 30th March at around 11 a.m. They set fire to our village without warning. They were all masked and armed. My family and I fled into the forest with the rest of the people of our village (3km from the village). The old people who couldn't walk stayed behind. We were chased from the forest to the border which we reached at about 7 o'clock. At the border we waited three or four hours (there were a lot of people); they took our identity papers and insulted the women (verbally and with obscene gestures)."
A woman of seventy and 12 members of her family fled on April 3 when they heard that the Serbs were burning a neighboring village. " Two days earlier a grenade had been thrown not far from our house. They set out in the family's tractor and when they reached a vantage point five kilometers down the road they saw that the neighboring village was in fact in flames ."
* A village near Prizren
The account of L., a 21-year-old woman from Prizren:
" Towards midday my grand-mother warned all the members of the family that our house was surrounded by Serbs. We were forced out of the house and ordered into the center of the village where the men were separated from the women and children. Our money and jewelry was taken away from us and we were forced to leave the village while the men were forced to stay behind."
L.'s mother claims her daughter was held for a long time without supplying any further details. L. arrived in the Italian camp of Kukes in a state of panic and exhaustion; still very agitated and fearful (notably of military uniforms worn by the doctors in the camp, of noise made by helicopters taking off, and of the noise of tent pegs being hammered into the ground). Her identity papers were confiscated at the border. L. is very weak; she has been refusing to eat or drink for two days and claims she has no desire to eat anymore.
The account of a 32-year-old woman whose brother, sister-in-law, nephews and nieces and parents-in-law have stayed in Prizren.
"The town had been occupied by police and special forces for some days. On the 16th April at 9 a.m., they told us to move out of our house because they were going to commandeer it. We left in a car with my sister-in-law and her four children. My brother should be arriving tomorrow. For weeks the special forces had been arresting men between the ages of 18 and 50 in the street, in shops etc., My brother-in-law was taken in with some other men we know (friends of my father-in-law). They were released a few days later, that's how we know this happened. The Serbs took them to the barracks, forced them to put on Serbian army uniforms and took them to the border where they had to dig trenches and carry weapons."
Dragas and the surrounding area
Dragas is near to the border between Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania. Witnesses confirm attacks on near-by villages (Kukli Beg, Plava Dragas, Blaç Dragas) from March 31 and April 3. These attacks and expulsions were conducted by soldiers and the police. The population was forced to move in the direction of Albania along with many others to the border at Morina. Customs officers confiscated their IDs.
One woman from Kukli Beg, a 26-year-old woman, left with her parents and grand-parents. One of her brothers is in Macedonia, the other in Switzerland.
"We didn't feel safe for 3 days because there were soldiers at the exits from our village (some in a van, the others in 3 tanks). They wore masks and fired up into the air. During the day, we hid in the forests. At 8 in the morning, 3rd April, a lorry full of soldiers came to the village; they shouted at us to leave straight-away, or else they'd kill any man they came across. Finally, they gave us 4 hours to leave. In one of the villages near by, a house was up in flames. At the exit from the village, they told us to turn back round, go back into our houses and then leave again; the village (about 200 people) split into two: some went north, the others south. No one could leave: the Serbs sent one family back to their house and then fired at the house from all angles. One man was shot in the leg. We had to leave; there were seven of us in the car. "Go to Albania" the soldiers ordered us. We travelled for 3 days and 3 nights; the convoy carried on very slowly, we couldn't even see where it started. We stopped one night to sleep. A lorry passed by filled with soldiers, who shouted insults at the women. At Zur, there were lots of soldiers, all on foot. We got to the border at 3.15 a.m. Our ID papers were confiscated by customs."
* Plava Dragas
A 48-year-old man left with his wife and three children.
"At 6 p.m., 31st March, the police came to our village and told us to get out. Two days before they'd set fire to our house which lay a little bit out of the village (around 400m) along with my brother's and my neighbor's houses, and since then we've lived with other families in the village. The 31st March, 3 unmasked policemen came into our house and gave us an hour to leave; they carried automatic weapons. We hesitated as we weren't sure what to do, where to go, but they started to fire into the air, telling us to head to the border, to Morina, so we had no choice but to do as they said. We left without any of our belongings. The whole village left on their tractors. At Dragas, there were just soldiers and policemen."
* Blaç Dragas
A 90-year-old man, left with 15 members of his family who he met up with at Kukes:
"I was forced out of my village, burnt-out by the Serbs, on 31st March, after they'd taken all our money and killed all the livestock. I was able to leave by tractor with my family and I stayed with friends in the village of Bresan; I stayed there for 12 days while the rest of my family went on to Albania. The 13th April, soldiers came by car to get me; there were six other old people who were also alone in Bresan, unable to go any further. The soldiers took us to the border. On the way, I saw lots of soldiers. Between Zur and the border, the soldiers were planting mines."
The following accounts describe assaults on, and expulsions from Mitrovica and surrounding villages (Tavnic, Shipolje, Vaganica and Doberluk). The events described took place between April 13 and 16.
People are deported to Albania via Dacovica and Prizren, in tractors, on foot, or on buses chartered by the Serbs. Sometimes the men are separated off from the group and taken by the Serbs to unknown locations.
A 15-year-old woman describes how she was forced from her home on 14th April: "At around 14.00, 4 armed, masked policemen came into our home and asked where the men were. We told them that there were no men left in our family, except for an old man (my uncle, who's 58 years old). They told us to give them all our money (DM 3,000). They smashed every object they could find, and the doors and the windows, and then told us to leave our homes, calling us terrorists and telling us to go to Albania. They took us to the bus station. There, we found many others who had been forced from their homes in the same way. Only seven buses left, absolutely packed with people. There were some men in the buses (about 20 in our bus). The police didn't follow us all the way to Prizren, but we were stopped many times on the way by other policemen and paramilitaries. They would speak to the driver and then leave. At Prizren, we were told to get off and continue on foot. We walked for 4 hours. Many people fled. At the border, we were lined up and the customs people took our identity papers away."
A 43-year-old man tells his story: "Around twenty masked paramilitaries came into our home on the afternoon of 14th April, at around 14.30. They told us to leave immediately. They emptied out the town, district by district. On the way, we picked up a woman from Prizren, who was walking alone, with her baby. She told us that her 34-year-old husband had been taken away by the Serbs that morning. On the road between Guracov and Runic, there were many policemen and masked soldiers driving around in trucks, cars, and even tractors. At Prizren, they stole DM 1,000 from us. I'd say around 2,700 people had come from Mitrovica. On the way, at Shipolje, they took some men away. I told them I had a heart condition, and they let me go."
A 19-year-old woman gives the following account: "On 15th April, I was at home with my father and brother, gathering some things together. My mother had just left. She had been warned of what was happening by other members of our family, and she left with them because she was ill and couldn't walk very well. About twenty policemen arrived, forced us out of our home and moved in. At Brobonica, the men were separated off from us. The police told them that if they stayed, they could join the KLA. I don't know what has become of my 60-year-old father or my 20-year-old brother since. At Jabar, we were allowed to rest for half an hour. A little farther on, the soldiers separated off all the young people, including the girls. I hid. We walked as far as Skenderaj, then went by tractor. There were lots of groups of soldiers all along the road. They asked us where we were going, and then they said: "Go to Albania! This is not your country!"
At Prizren, they took money from us. Some of us paid DM 10 or DM 20, others DM 50, depending on how much we had. At Prizren, we each had to pay another DM 10. Between Prizren and Zur, there were a lot of soldiers. They passed us at high speed in their cars, shooting in the air to frighten us. Between Mitrovica and Prizren, I saw many burned-down villages. There's no longer a living soul left in the central part of the country. I think there's hardly anyone left in Prizren."
A 56-year-old man gives the following account: "Our village, Drware, was surrounded in mid-March. We hid for a week in the forest, and the women and children went to live with friends in Mitrovica. We met up with them again in Mitrovica, a week later, and then we all went on to Oshlan, where we stayed for five days. Then we returned to stay with my brother in Mitrovica, before escaping to Shipolje, where we stayed for 12 days, until 15th April.
On 15th April, at around 8 o'clock in the morning, we heard the sound of machine guns, and then we heard grenades exploding. We fled to the other end of the village and hid inside a house, but the police came and we were forced to travel to Skenderaj in a tractor. There, we were told to go to Pec, then to Klina, and then to Dacovica. On the way, we didn't see a single village that was still inhabited."
A 30-year-old woman gives the following account: "We were forced from our homes on 15th April. On the way, I saw men of all ages being beaten and taken away by the Serbs. I also saw a paramilitary put his gun into the mouth of a 55-year-old woman, whom I know. She was in a tractor behind us. I fear she may be dead now; that they shot her because the Serbs told her son to give them his tractor and he refused. We heard later that they had killed his mother."
A 28-year-old woman gives the following account: "My village was surrounded on 15th April. It wasn't long before we were forced out of our homes, at around 15.00 the same day. Every 5 minutes, our convoy was stopped by soldiers and paramilitaries. We had to pay them money to keep our tractors. We paid DM 100 for the right to keep our three tractors. We saw one woman in a car killed by a sniper. We didn't know her; she was about 70 years old. Other people were killed along the way. The soldiers fired in the air to scare us and to force us to move faster. They told us to walk, to move on, to hurry up. At the border, we had to pay DM 10 per person, and the customs people took our identity papers away."
A 65-year-old man gives the following account: "My village was subjected to a grenade attack by the Federal Army for three days (13th, 14th and 15th April). On 16th April, soldiers and policemen came to the village and ordered everybody to leave. The villagers obeyed. As soon as the houses had been evacuated, the Serbs burned them down. The Chief of Police at Vucitrn (he gives the officer's name) took part in the attack. I also saw two victims of the bombing. Serb forces organized the convoys. I was part of a group of around 3,000 people sent to Albania and Montenegro via Pec."
The Dakovica Region
Eye-witness accounts tell of the attack on, and expulsions from, the town of Dakovica and surrounding villages (Deve, Beci, Nivocaz, and Batusa). They cover the period from the April 1 to 14. These witness accounts speak of numerous killings and systematic looting of the Kosovars either in their own homes or at the Serb customs post before the border with Albania. This pillaging is carried out by the police, soldiers and paramilitaries. On the border, all identity papers are being confiscated systematically. People are mainly forced out on foot in the direction of Albania, via the border town of Cafa Prusit.
The attacks and expulsions took place between April 2 and 5.
A 50-year-old man told us: "On the 2nd of April, 20 policemen came into our house at about 2 in the afternoon. Some wore masks, others didn't, but they were all armed. They said 'Leave! We're going to burn your house down. Go to Albania'. We left by car immediately, taking nothing with us. At more or less the same time, my wife's 66-year-old grandmother was slaughtered in her home, along with a 38-year-old uncle and 20 other members of her family. Among them were men and women between 30 and 60 years old, and 12 children between the ages of 2 and 16. (He recited their names one by one). My identity papers were confiscated at the border."
A 34-year-old man told us: "On the 1st of April, during the night, paramilitaries surrounded my uncle Hajdar's house and broke down the door. They asked him where he worked, and he answered: 'In a shop'. They then demanded money, and my uncle said that he didn't have any. Since my uncle suffers from a neurological disorder and has difficulty walking, the Serbs went to see his brother in the adjoining room. My other uncle (aged 40) told them that he had no money either. They shot him through the heart. My uncle Hajdar ran to his brother, but they killed him too in the same way. In all, there were 15 members of my family in the house that day. Hajdar and Mahmud were killed in front of their wives and children who, in the following minutes, were thrown out because the Serbs were setting fire to the house. My grandmother just managed to slide a pillow under the heads of her two dead sons. The family took refuge with neighbors about 300 m away.
The next morning, my aunt called us to tell us what had happened. We had been confined to our house for a week. Two men from the family carried the bodies to the cemetery.
The next day, the 3rd of April, around 9 o'clock, six Serbs came to our house. They said to us 'Are you still here? You've got five minutes to leave for Vermitza!'. They were dressed as paramilitaries, with big black hats such as cowboys wear. Their guns had silencers. Apparently, they were doing the same thing to all our neighbors. We all left on foot together, and walked for seven hours to the border. Our identity papers were confiscated at the border."
A 25-year-old man explained: "About 15 soldiers came into our house at midday on the 5th of April. They were cordoning off the whole district and doing the same thing in all the neighboring houses. We'd been expecting this ever since the bombing started because the Serbs had looted and burned all the Albanian shops in the town and killed people such as the best doctor in the town. Apparently, almost 250 people must have been killed in Dakovica between the 25th of March and the 5th of April. The whole family left together on foot, carrying food and warm clothing. Our grandparents were unable to walk. They were old and sick. We left them in the Dakovica hospital. At the Customs post, the Serbs took the 2 000 DM that I was carrying, along with our identity papers. The Customs officers threatened to kill people who wouldn't hand over their money."
A 40-year-old man told us: "The police came in the middle of the night. They assembled a quarter of the village ready to leave. At a checkpoint some way along the road towards the border, other policemen told us to take another route. At another checkpoint further on, the policemen decided to herd us right to the border. At the side of the road, near the village, we saw two bodies. They had been killed; I recognized one of them (he gave us the name). Our convoy was stopped frequently. There was a lot of military traffic on the road. At one point, two young chaps quite close to me were slaughtered with no questions asked; they must have been about 20 years old. The soldiers were about to kill a third when his mother screamed 'He isn't 15 yet!', so they left him alone. We recognized one of the paramilitary assassins because he wasn't masked. We all knew this man: he was the dentist in our district. Further on, they took a father and son aside and executed the son in front of the father, then two brothers, as well as the two oldest men from the village. Their bodies are still on the road. Our identity papers were confiscated at the border."
A 66-year-old man told us :
"The police came to our village at around 11 o'clock on the 3rd of April and gave the inhabitants two hours to get out and go to Albania. The village wasn't far from the border, but the commander told everybody to go to Prizren. So everyone had to make a gigantic detour. On the road to Prizren, we saw only one body (a charred corpse by the side of the road). At least every 100 yards along the road, there were paramilitaries in balaclavas or with their faces hidden. As we went we saw villages being looted and the farm animals killed by the Serbs.
Beyond Prizren, they began extorting money from us (600 DM) by threatening us with firearms and taunting us with 'Where do you think you're going?'. A paramilitary ordered my son who was driving the tractor to turn his engine off or he would be killed, but the paramilitary was alone and surrounded on all sides by the crowd; he did not insist.
I saw four bodies in a ditch. The earth around them had been dug up and the bodies were in a terrible state. But since the Serbs were aiming their guns at us, we couldn't really get a good look. A bit further on, when a man got down from his tractor to fill up with petrol, his two daughters were abducted by paramilitaries. They just disappeared. A man who was very near to us in the convoy stopped at one point to answer a call of nature. He saw soldiers lead away a group of people a bit further on and slaughter them.
Around Zur, there were lots of soldiers. An old woman and two children (she was carrying a very young one in her arms and holding the other by the hand) were knocked down and killed by speeding army trucks. Between Zur and the border, the women were insulted regularly; my wife wanted to prepare food for the children. A soldier pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her if she carried on. At the border, we were told to run. Our identity papers were confiscated near Dakovica."
A 76-year-old man :
"A year ago, our village was bombed, and we went to live in Dakovica. Four months later, the Serbs told us we could return to our village; there was only one habitable room left, the rest of the house had been destroyed by fire. Around 7 o'clock in the morning, on the 14th of April, policemen wearing balaclavas came to the village, there were lots of them and they were armed to the teeth. They told us to go to Albania. As soon as we had left, they set fire to the houses in the village which had escaped the first fire a year ago. There were 30 of us on the back of a tractor. Everyone from the village managed to escape (about 300 people). Some headed for Cafa Prusit. As for us, we headed for Vermitza. There were lots and lots of soldiers all along the road. We didn't witness any extortion, but we heard it said that many people coming from Drenitza had been beaten up, abducted and killed. Our identity papers were confiscated at the border."
A 35-year-old woman told us: "I left my home three weeks ago and hid in Dobrosha (near Dakovica) along with my family. We left there nine days ago, but the policemen/paramilitaries sent us back to Dakovica: 'Go home' they said to us 'we won't do anything to you'. On the 13th of April, they came into our houses in Batusa and set fire to them after having taken all our money. They weren't masked, but there were lots of them. My son was taken to a field not far from the house where he was beaten up to force him to give them his money. After that, they left him alone, and we were able to leave together. A few kilometers before Prizren, a plane flew over us. It was flying very low and fast and could see us clearly. For two or three hours, there had no longer been any soldiers with us. It dropped bombs on either side of the road. Everyone tried to throw themselves to the ground to protect themselves. No one was injured, so the plane came back again and bombed the very middle of our convoy, hitting the two vehicles in front of us. Everyone in these two tractors was killed (about ten people). We were in the third tractor; my brother, who was driving, had his arm torn off. Many people were injured. Ten minutes after the bombing, the police arrived with a truck to take away the injured and the dead; my husband helped to put the bodies into the truck; he counted 18 of them. The policemen said they were taking the injured to the hospital in Prizren. Our identity papers were confiscated at the border."
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)