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World - Europe

Serbs reportedly planting land mines to create Kosovo 'no man's land'

tent
Refugees arrived in Albania before the border closed

related videoRELATED VIDEO
CNN's Mike Hanna talks with refugees who dream of leaving camps for home (April 9)
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InteractiveIMAGE GALLERY:
Burning flags and rock concerts:
Protesting the NATO strikes

Devastation of Kosovo capital

The Serbs and Kosovo
 ALSO
Envoy: No progress in talks on U.S. soldiers

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Britain says Milosevic 'feeling the heat'

U.S. casts doubt on Cuban base as refugee site

 MESSAGE BOARD
Crisis in Kosovo
 MAPS
NATO officials describe attacks from day one through day fifteen
 

April 9, 1999
Web posted at: 12:40 a.m. EDT (0440 GMT)


In this story:

Albanian refugees move south

Situation improves in Macedonia

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Kosovars faced a new threat Friday after two separate reports that Serb authorities were planting land mines along the Yugoslav-Albanian border in an apparent bid to isolate the war-ravaged province.

News of the development prompted deep concerns from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, who said the flow of people out of Kosovo had suddenly stopped.

"We don't know what has happened to them. I'm very, very worried," she told a news conference in Albania Thursday.

CNN correspondents who visited the frontier region Thursday said Serb forces could be seen laying what appeared to be land mines just inside their territory at Morina, the main border crossing into Albania.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea reported similar information saying the land mines were part of an attempt by Serb authorities to make Kosovo "a total no-man's land".

"We face a situation that for many months the Serb army was mining the border with Albania to stop people from going in. Now they seem to be mining to stop people from going out," Shea said.

For more than two weeks, tens of thousands of ethnic Albanian Kosovars have fled into Albania claiming they were forced out by Serb security forces.

But British Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short said Serb-led Yugoslav forces now appeared to be turning the remaining Kosovars around. About 10,000 refugees queuing for days to enter Albania have reportedly disappeared.

"They seem now to have started rounding up refugees queuing to leave Kosovo and returning them by force," Short said.

"We do not know if they have been driven back into their homes or elsewhere within Kosovo," she said.

CNN Correspondent Mike Boettcher said he was told that many vehicles belonging to ethnic Albanians were found abandoned, some of them burned, along the road leading to the border post.

According to Serbian media, the Kosovars returned to their homes amid assurances that it was safe to return.

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said Washington had "credible but not confirmed reports" that war crimes had been committed by Serb forces against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Rubin said the U.S. government would turn over its evidence to the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Albanian refugees move south

Ogata said she was pleased that Albania had allowed in about 300,000 refugees.

The NATO-run refugee transit centers in northern Albania -- particularly in the main camp at Kukes -- were moving people south.

Authorities told CNN Correspondent Satinger Bindra in Kukes that they were trying to move thousands of refugees to Tirana, the capital.

There were about 100,000 refugees at Kukes, and aid officials were trying to improve their living conditions, particularly sanitation. Several children were sick with measles, and there were fears that other diseases could erupt.

kukes food
An International Red Cross volunteer hands out food  

However, Ogata admitted that there were bottlenecks in the processing of aid supplies being flown in. Tirana airport was overcrowded because of inadequate off-loading facilities and congested air space.

Situation improves in Macedonia

Britain said conditions had improved markedly for refugees in Macedonia who were moved from squalid camps to new NATO tent cities housing about 43,000 refugees.

But London said NATO officials were worried because some of the refugees were being sent out of the country.

"We remain concerned that refugees in Macedonia are being forced onto planes and buses. This is unacceptable. We understand Macedonian concerns and will provide support to Macedonia, provided it complies with international rights and norms in its treatment of refugees," Short said.

The Macedonian authorities rejected international criticism of the way it was handling the refugees. And a government statement said there were no refugees unaccounted for.

Correspondents Mike Boettcher and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Britain accuses Serbs of preventing Kosovars' escapes
April 8, 1999
NATO strikes target Serb ground forces, complicate GI release efforts
April 8, 1999
Yugoslavian borders closed, refugees' fate 'alarming'
April 8, 1999
NATO reports 'breakthrough' against Serb forces
April 7, 1999
NATO defies Yugoslav cease-fire with more bombing
April 7, 1999
NATO rejects cease-fire, resumes bombing Yugoslavia
April 6, 1999
NATO rejects Yugoslav unilateral cease-fire offer
April 6, 1999
Airstrikes hit home in a small Serbian town
April 6, 1999
Support for ground troops swells in Congress
April 4, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
  • Kosovo

Yugoslavia:
  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News


Kosovo:
  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosovo - from Albanian.com

Military:
  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

Relief:
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Unicef USA
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • World Vision
  • CARE: The Kosovo Crisis
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Disaster Relief from DisasterRelief.org
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page


Media:
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

Other:
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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