HeadLine: THE BLOOD BANK SLAVES
Daily Record, 21/04/1999, p6&7
by Shaun Milne in Kukes, and Jamie Macaskill
REFUGEE boys are being snatched from their families and used as slaves, human shields and “blood banks” by Serb death squads, it was revealed yesterday.
NATO said 700 teenage boys, some as young as 14, had been kidnapped by Serb paramilitaries.
Some have had needles forced into their veins to provide blood for Serb troops injured in NATO bombing raids or in combat with Kosovo Liberation Army rebels.
Others have been used as human shields to protect Serb units from NATO airstrikes.
Aid agencies at the Kosovo border with Albania said the Serbs were also snatching refugees to use as slaves.
Some had been forced to lay mines along routes packed with refugees and more were being forced to dig defences.
Giving a gruesome insight into the continuing brutality being waged by Serb troops in Kosovo, NATO said it had more evidence of massacres and the systematic rape of ethnic Albanian women.
Alliance spokesman Jamie Shea said in one incident a Serb general rounded up ethnic Albanian women and put them in a hotel, near the devastated town of Pec.
The hotel was then used as a brothel by Serb soldiers who drew up a “rape rota”.
In another incident about 100 men were executed at point-blank range.
Shea said Serb forces were also starting to use tear gas against refugees around the Kosovo capital Pristina and were singling out medical workers for slaughter.
The evidence of atrocities – which Shea said came from “reliable” information – is being added to a growing catalogue of war crimes being collated.
NATO have pledged to use the evidence to bring Serb President Slobodan Milosevic and the other perpetrators before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Shea said more than 3500 Kosovar civilians had been executed, 500 residential areas torched and 200 villages destroyed.
He said: “The killing fields of Kosovo are going to be on our minds for many years to come as we piece the full story together and ensure that those responsible are brough to justice.”
One incident involved Serb forces forcing Kosovar-Albanian men to dig defensive positions. Shea said 700 men had then been “forced to stand in front of tanks in the rain for two days with their hands tied behind their heads.”
A few escaped after paying Serb soldiers more than £3000.
Shea said a group of women were sent to an army camp near Djakovica to be repeatedly raped by Serb soldiers.
He said: “Refugees allege that in Pec, Serb forces have rounded up young Albanian women and taken them to the Hotel Caragac where the local commanders apparently has organised a roster of his soldiers to allow them all an evening at the hotel.
“All of this is going to be checked out but the reports are too numerous to suggest that these are completely without foundation.”
Shea said thousands of refugees continued to be herded towards Kosovo’s borders, sometimes only to find themselves turned back.
NATO also said Serb ethnic cleansing has now extended into Montenegro.
The small coastal state, which together with Serbia formed the former Yugoslavia, has tried to distance itself from its federation neighbour’s brutal purge of ethnic Albanians.
Shea said it was a “new and distressing” development.
As he revealed the continuing atrocities, the first Serb prisoner of war admitted civilians were being massacred inside Kosovo.
But the young army lieutenant pinned the blame on paramilitary thugs and not the regular army.
He was captured after deserting during a battle with the KLA last week.
The soldier, known only as Boban, was interviewed by a German journalist during a clandestine meeting in a hideout near the Albanian border.
Boban said: “I’ve heard about the burning of houses, executions and rapes.
“The army isn’t doing this. It’s the paramilitary units who are responsible.”
Boban, who revealed other soldiers have deserted, said he had been scared when he was captured with four soldiers near a refugee column inside Kosovo.
Boban has been handed over to NATO for questioning.
Three aid workers from the American Refugees Inter-national were killed along with their Albanian driver when their car crashed between Tirana and the border town of Kukes.