Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Serb prosecutor admits 800 ethnic Albanians massacred during Kosovo war - AFP

Some 800 ethnic Albanians exhumed from a mass grave near Belgrade following the 1998-99 war in Kosovo were the victims of mass executions, Serbia's war crimes prosecutor said Wednesday, in the first such admission from a Serb official.

"In (the Belgrade suburb of) Batajnica were found the remains of people who had been victims of mass executions in Kosovo," prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic was quoted as saying by Beta news agency.

Vukcevic's statement confirmed long-held claims by Serbian and international non-governmental organizations as well as Kosovo Albanian officials that ethnic Albanians were the victims of massively executed during the conflict.

The remains of some 800 ethnic Albanians were exhumed in 2001 from a mass grave at the Serbian secret police training camp in Batajnica, near Belgrade.

"Following the exhumation and autopsy it has become clear that those people were not killed by bomb explosions, but their wounds showed that they had been executed," Vukcevic said.

The prosecutor said his office "will this year make public what happened there."

Out of about 900 Kosovo Albanians whose remains have been exhumed from Batajnica and two other mass graves in Serbia since the war, only about 350 have been identified and repatriated to their families.

Of 3,192 people still listed as missing from the war, 2,460 are from Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, 529 are Serbs and 203 are from other ethnic backgrounds.

Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian forces to withdraw from the southern province in 1999.

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