FBI team in Kosovo begins war crime investigation
June 23, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Dozens of scientists and crime scene experts from the FBI arrived Wednesday in Kosovo to gather and identify evidence at a pair of suspected war crimes sites in the town of Djakovica. The two sites in western Kosovo are believed to contain a total of 26 bodies.
The FBI team of 59 agents, chemists, forensic dentists and other specialists traveled there neighboring Macedonia. A few FBI supervisors had arrived in the region previously.
Information collected by the FBI will be turned over to war crimes prosecutors pursuing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four other top officials in the Serb-led Yugoslav government.
"The province of Kosovo is now one of the largest crime scenes in history," FBI Director Louis Freeh told reporters in Washington.
The FBI team is working inside a house in Djakovica where prosecutors assert that 20 people were herded and shot by Serb troops bent on ridding Kosovo of ethnic Albanians.
The FBI will also excavate a nearby site where prosecutors allege six ethnic Albanian men were executed and buried in March.
The Djakovica house is one of the most notorious alleged massacre sites that came to light as refugees streamed out of the province and told their stories.
Serb troops allegedly rounded up women and children, herded them into the house in the early hours of April 2 and opened fire. The troops then allegedly burned the house and the corpses.
The alleged slaughter at both sites is described in a lengthy war crimes indictment issued last month against Milosevic and the others.
The officials are accused of killing some ethnic Albanians and forcibly evicting others from Kosovo. Names of alleged massacre victims in Djakovica and elsewhere are listed in the indictment, and the FBI will try to match bodies with those names, Freeh said.
He said the scope of the FBI deployment to Kosovo is larger than past cases in which agents were sent to crime scenes where the victims were not Americans. But Freeh cited several precedents including FBI assistance to international tribunals in Bosnia and Rwanda.
"I can't think of a more important assignment for the FBI or the U.S.," Freeh said
Attacks on Serbs reported; anti-Milosevic protests planned
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