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  •   Massacre Reported in Kosovo

    By John Ward Anderson
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Sunday, May 30, 1999; Page A24

    KUKES, Albania, May 29 – Serbian paramilitary forces apparently massacred at least 20 men and set fire to dozens of homes three days ago in an assault on a neighborhood in Prizren, according to refugees arriving here from Yugoslavia.

    The refugees said the attack occurred about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Tusus section of Prizren, the third-largest city in Kosovo, where Serbian police and militia units have been expelling ethnic Albanians since March 24. Kosovo is a province of Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant republic.

    Numerous refugees arriving here today said in interviews that masked men awoke the Tusus neighborhood – a modern section in northwest Prizren that is home to many conservative Muslims – with a barrage of automatic weapons fire. The soldiers entered houses, told the women, children and older men to leave, and then apparently killed 20 to 30 young men, the refugees said.

    The stories matched those given to United Nations and other border monitors Friday and today. Although no one has said they saw the killings, two refugees said they saw 20 to 30 bodies, including those of neighbors, in the Prizren Hospital morgue.

    Ferije Rexhepi, 20, said she was working in her house at about 6:30 a.m. when gunfire erupted in the street. About 10 masked men barged in and went to the second-floor bedroom where her husband, Hajrim Arifi, 22, was sleeping, and dragged him downstairs, she said. The men beat the couple, who had been married for 10 months, and looted the house until about 8:30, when they ordered her to leave, Rexhepi said.

    Rexhepi and other refugees described fleeing through the neighborhood with houses burning all around them and gunfire echoing through the streets.

    Rexhepi's father, Nefail Rexhepi, said he returned later that day and found blood in the street and a heap of smoldering ashes where the house had been. The next day, Thursday, he said he went to the morgue, and after paying guards about $44 "just to know if my son-in-law was alive or dead," he was allowed to enter.

    Inside, Nefail Rexhepi said he found the "barely recognizable" body of his son-in-law among two dozen bodies strewn on the floor. He said he recognized about 10 bodies as those of his neighbors.

    Rexhepi said he saw three gunshot wounds on his son-in-law's body, including one in the back of his head. And he said the body appeared to have been mutilated.

    The account of the fires and the bodies in the morgue matched a similar report given to border monitors by a woman on Friday, according to the translator who conducted the interview.

    The translator, who asked not to be identified, said at least four people from Tusus arrived in Albania Friday and described an early morning assault on their neighborhood about two days earlier, during which the women were expelled from their homes and dozens of houses were set ablaze.

    According to the translator, one woman said she returned to her home several hours later and found the badly mutilated body of her son in the basement, where he had been hiding for several weeks. She said his nose had been cut off and his ear slashed.

    The woman said she took her son's body to the morgue, where she saw 30 more bodies, including those of some of her neighbors, according to the translator.

    "She was crying and hugging me, and waving her hands to show how all the faces had been slashed," the translator said.

    Numerous refugees arriving in Albania in recent weeks have said that Serbian militia have slashed the ears of male refugees.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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