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A mass grave holds the bodies of 430 children slaughtered by Serb troops, it was claimed yesterday.

The remains of at least 137 adults were said to be in the same makeshift pit.

Survivors of the massacre in the Kosovo town of Orahovac two weeks ago allege as many as 1000 innocent civilians died. They claim whole families were wiped out.

And they told how load after load of bodies were driven to the town's rubbish dump and buried under broken glass, rotten vegetables and gravel.

The bodies of children were brought to the mass grave in rubbish bags.

The terrified survivors blamed the Serbs' feared special anti-terrorist units, known as the SAJ, who committed some of the worst outrages in Bosnia.

And they claimed the troops, who wear black headbands, used civilians as human shields during fighting.

It is known that 700 SAJ men were sent in to crush a bid by the Kosovo Liberation Army to capture the town.

The Serbs regained control after two days of fierce fighting.

Rumours have circulated since that they then launched a bloodbath against the town.

The grave was reported by newspapers in Austria, Germany and Sweden yesterday.

Their reporters were among the first to reach the town since the fighting.

They said survivors told them that most of the 20,000 residents fled in panic as soon as the battle began.

Most are still refugees, hiding in the woods, too terrified to return to their homes.

Others remained, sheltering in cellars and attics, hoping the KLA rebels would fight off the Serbs.

But their gamble failed when the heavily-armed SAJ units re-took Orahovac and then exacted a bloody revenge.

Survivors allege that they went from house to house throwing grenades into cellars where mothers and children were cowering in fear.

Other families were dragged into the street and shot.

More victims were buried in other mass graves further south, towards the town of Prizren, it is alleged.

Eyewitnesses said they saw two lorry-loads of bodies being driven there.

The correspondents said bloodstains could still be seen on the streets leading away from Orahovac.

However, the Serbs claim that only 60 people died in the battle for the town.

They hurriedly used bulldozers to cover up the rubbish dump earlier this week before Western diplomats visited the town.

Bodies of dead animals were brought in a bid to disguise the smell.

Austria's foreign minister said he was seeking British and French help in raising the matter at the UN Security Council.

One terrifying incident during the fighting has already been revealed by a woman who managed to flee with her two small children.

Behija Hajda, a 25-year-old Albanian, told how she and her husband joined a group of residents trying to leave the town.

She said: "Around 300 of us attempted to leave as a group.

"When we passed the mosque, the Serbs spotted us. We all put our hands up and shouted: `Please don't shoot'.

"But the Serbs opened fire. Everybody panicked.

"I saw that my husband was hit. We started to run in all directions."

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said: "If there is any truth in these accounts we must have a firm international response."
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Author:Foreign, MARK DOWDNEY
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 6, 1998
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