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Europe At War: Evidence of Serbs evil is appalling.

ANY who doubt the scale of the Serb terror against the Kosovan Albanians should stand, like I did, on the border with Macedonia.

No one could listen to these terrified refugees, forced to flee their own country, without being appalled at the barbarous crimes being committed by the Serbs against them - and convinced they are telling the truth.

They talk of entire towns and villages being emptied of their Albanian populations at gun point. Those who refuse being either shot on the spot or burnt alive as their homes are set on fire.

They speak of families being forced to flee without any possessions or food. Of forced marches to railway stations with anyone leaving the lines being shot. Of the cold-blooded murder of the old or paralysed who might delay the ethnic cleansing.

The evidence of killings and forced expulsions on a massive scale, of ethnic cleansing, of war crimes and crimes against humanity, is now overwhelming. It can be described in no other way than evil.

And the widespread and systematic criminal conduct of the Serb military, paramilitary, and police units in Kosovo also demonstrates that what is happening behind its closed borders could indicate genocide.

I heard these accounts first hand myself last week on the border of Macedonia and Blace. I spoke over two days, with the help of an interpreter, to an estimated 200 refugees about their experiences.

I wandered freely through the camp which then held thousands of refugees speaking for over 15 hours to people at random. They were not told who I was in case it might influence what they told me. But there was a shocking consistency in what I heard which is too significant either to ignore or understate.

The pattern described was of Serb forces, usually masked to hide their identities, barging into Kosovar homes and ordering the occupants to leave within five minutes. In Pristina, where the assault took place with planned efficiency, the Serbs yelled: "There will be no Albanian Pristina after tonight."

Kosovars were shaken down for all their money and jewellery. All documents of identification are taken. Homes are looted and then either torched or taken over by the Serb military. Cars are either stolen or torched.

I was told that those Kosovars who refuse to leave their homes are killed. They are shot in their home or left inside to burn to death when the house is torched.

The basic Serb message is "You leave or you die". Serb snipers are positioned around ethnically cleansed villages and in the centre of Pristina to shoot anyone who moves without permission.

Killings and beatings are common. Executed bodies were seen on the streets of Pristina. The paralysed were either shot in their homes or pushed in wheelbarrows.

One refugee who tried to carry his mother was stopped. His mother was shot dead and he was told by the Serb murderer, "Look I've made your hike easier."

There were tens of thousands of Kosovars crammed together, without food and water, at the Pristina station. There were reports of gunfire throughout the night.

When a train arrived, they were packed onto it like sardines. One refugee told me there were 300 people crammed into each carriage.

I can well believe it. I saw a train arrive and watched thousands of people getting off, like a human tidal wave. It was an amazing sight.

And as for the Serb claims that the Kosovars were fleeing their homes because of Nato bombing, I was told repeatedly by the refugees they had not left because of the Nato campaign but because of the Serb assault on the civilian population.

They unanimously supported the Nato action. All were asked if there were Kosova casualties from the bombing and all replied "No"

But many said they had witnessed Serb forces torch stores and homes near a bombing target and claim the damage was caused by bombs.

One refugee witnessed a Kosovar being forced by soldier pointing a gun at him off camera, to tell Belgrade TV that he was fleeing the Nato bombing.

It is of course impossible to verify the stories of atrocities at the present time because of Serb actions in Kosovo. But I've heard from these refugees at first hand. I saw their faces.

I'm in no doubt that Milosevic's forces have committed crimes of almost unimaginable horror. They are crimes for which we are determined they will pay. They will not escape justice.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:S, DAVID SCHEFFER US Ambassador On War
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 10, 1999
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