HeadLine: SERBS MADE US WEAR UNIFORMS
Daily Record, 16/04/1999, p4&5
by Shaun Milne
REFUGEES fleeing Kosovo last night told how Serb soldiers forced them to dress as Yugoslav troops so NATO jets would bomb them.
They said the Serbs picked out young men from the convoys leaving the province and threatened to execute them unless they put on army uniforms.
Nuhi Hasan, 27, said: “They told them to put on Serb uniforms and said those who refuse would be shot.
“They are making those people stand in fields near their camps in uniform so they look like Serbian soldiers.
“They want NATO to bomb them instead of the real soldiers so they can make good propaganda.
“I do not know for sure if this is what happened when the convoy was bombed the other night. All I know is many people are now dead.”
Nuhi was among thousands of refugees fleeing from villages in the Prizeren region of Kosovo when the NATO bombs fell.
The refugees spoke of hearing jets and helicopters flying over their heads.
They told of explosions behind them and how they learned that at least 70 people had been killed in an air attack.
Tasim Mazrera, 39, said: “First we heard the noise of jets, then the explosions.
“Next we heard helicopters, which made us think it was the Serbs who attacked us.
“We could not believe NATO would fire at us because they are our friends, they are our allies.”
He said some of those at the head of a column of tractors carrying about 1000 refugees hid beneath trees in terror for two hours after the explosions.
“Most of them turned back towards the way they came when the bombing started,” he added.
“They were too scared to carry on in case they were bombed too. Neighbours told us there was a big explosion in front and when they passed where it happened they saw people lying dead.
“They said they saw body parts and people with no hands or heads. They do not know who is to blame. None of us do.”
Florie Hoti, 36, from the same village, said: “We heard the explosions and just ran away from the noise.
“Those behind us went the other way. Now we are waiting here for news of our friends. We do not know what has happened to them or even if they are still alive.”
Albanian police also accused Serb troops of shelling refugees on the border. And there were also reports of three explosions in Morina, just over the border.
Yesterday one old woman was so weak she had to be bundled on to a trolley to be carried across the bridge that separates Kosovo and Albania.
The family of Hazize Porag, 85, say the trauma of the carnage she has witnessed since the Serbs started their ethnic cleansing has left her deaf and unable to speak.
She lies curled up in a ball, shaking constantly, now oblivious to the commotion around her.
Her son, Serat, 52, said: “It is the Serbs who have left her without a voice. It is the Serbs who have killed the flame inside of her. They bombed our villages with shells, so we left.
“If we had stayed, they would have killed us.”
Others crossing the Albanian border on foot carry each other the last few faltering steps to sanctuary.
But along the border, tension is high.
On the Albanian side, police and soldiers wait for ever more refugees to snake their way into their country.
Just 200 yards away, Serb snipers sit waiting for the chance to shoot anybody who dares stray into Kosovo.
They can be seen moving on the hilltops, whistling and cat-calling to those below.
They only stop when they hear NATO jets thunder through the sky above. The sound is followed by a series of explosions.
Albanian Special Forces man the border crossing. Just 20 minutes away the men of the Kosovo Liberation Army hide out in a mountain enclave.
On the outskirts of Kukes, the nearest large town, two NATO helicopters were seen arriving on Wednesday, along with reports of army vehicles heading their way.
Local intelligence sources claim they are an advance party for US Apache ground attack helicopters that will arrive this weekend.
It would mean NATO would be able to target Serb positions close to the border in a bid to destroy artillery posts threatening Albania.
But it would also mean further hazards to those refugees who are still trying to escape from Kosovo.
Meanwhile, aid agencies are warning of a looming water crisis in Kukes as more refugees pour in.
The population has already risen from 30,000 to more than 100,000 in little over a month.
Many are tightly packed into official NATO-run refugee camps, while others are left to fend for themselves in tractors and trailers under sheets of plastic.
Oxfam say the local water supply is now under intense pressure and could collapse completely with the arrival of more Kosovars.
And they say the coming summer will further deplete supplies and could lead to outbreak of diseases like cholera.
Simon Williamson, Oxfam’s emergency coordinator, said: “We are facing a crisis point. If something isn’t done with a month we could be facing a really serious problem.”