14 Serb farmers killed in Kosovo, NATO reports
Most violent incident since peacekeepers arrived
July 24, 1999
GRACKO, Kosovo (CNN) -- NATO peacekeepers on Saturday were investigating the shooting of 14 Serb farmers in a field in Kosovo, the most violent incident in the province since peacekeeping troops arrived in mid-June.
The victims, all men between the ages of 20 and 60, were shot at close range Friday night, according to KFOR officials.
CNN's Nic Robertson said British KFOR forces have sealed off the area, and authorities have appealed for calm.
According to KFOR spokesman Major Jan Joosten, British troops were patrolling near the town of Lipljan at 9.30 p.m. (1930 GMT) on Friday when they heard shooting.
Death on a farm track
About 30 minutes later, they discovered the bodies of 13 Serbs who had been shot dead next to their combined harvester.
The body of a 14th Serb was discovered 150 yards (meters) away on a tractor.
The killings occurred on a rough farm track about half a mile (1 km) from the village of Gracko.
The victims' bodies were removed to Pristina hospital, officials said. British military police were leading the investigation, which was being treated as a murder probe.
KFOR says it will aggressively track the perpetrators.
Serb vilagers don't feel safe
"KFOR and the international police will hunt down those responsible for this awful crime. We will ensure they are brought to justice to face the full might of the law," Joosten said.
Although British KFOR forces have patrolled the area, and east of the provincial capital, Pristina, U.S. Army soldiers, members of the Task Force Falcon, 1st Infantry Btl., guard a checkpoint in Gnjilane, many residents of the Gracko area say they do not feel safe. They report that Kosovar Albanians often enter their village undeterred by peacekeeping troops.
In recent weeks, break-ins, intimidation, and even the killing of Serbs have been reported, residents said, adding that the death of the farmers represented by far the largest violent incident since peacekeeping troops arrived to restore security, following the withdrawal of Yugoslav military and police forces.
Some Serbs were planning to leave the area because of fears for their safety.
Correspondent Nic Robertson contributed to this report.
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