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Balkans Special Report

  Cohen Fears 100,000 Kosovo Men Killed by Serbs

Cohen and Shelton,AP
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Henry Shelton, left, and Secretary of Defense William Cohen on CBS's "Face the Nation." (AP)
By Tom Doggett
Sunday, May 16, 1999; 2:56 p.m. EDT

Up to 100,000 ethnic Albanian men in Kosovo of fighting age have vanished and may have been killed by Serbian forces, Defense Secretary William Cohen said on Sunday.

"We've now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing. . . . They may have been murdered," Cohen said on the CBS news program "Face the Nation."

Refugees leaving Kosovo have told relief workers of Serb troops separating men from women and children and not allowing them to cross the border, presumably to try to stop them from joining the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Cohen said he had already received reports that up to 4,600 Kosovo men have been executed. "But I suspect it's far higher than that," he said.

Serbian forces have so far displaced 1.5 million ethnic Albanian men, women and children in Kosovo, he said.

Cohen said he believes the Serb campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo is likely to continue because he has not seen any signs that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is ready to abide by NATO terms to end the fighting.

NATO will therefore continue its bombing campaign to get Milosevic to the bargaining table, Cohen said.

"We intend to intensify this campaign to the point where he [Milosevic] will accept those conditions," Cohen said. "We're coming at him from all angles. So he is going to continue to pay a very heavy price day by day."

Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the two dozen Apache helicopters that were sent last month to Albania for use against Serb troops were still undergoing rehearsals. Two of the helicopters have crashed.

He refused to speculate when the helicopters will be put into action. "Basically, we will use them at a time and place of our choosing," Shelton said on the CBS program.

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, speaking on the Fox News Sunday television program, said training for the Apache helicopters "is just about over" and NATO Supreme Military Commander Gen. Wesley Clark will soon decide when to use the fighting machines.

"According to the information I have at this point," Solana said, "is that he (Clark) is ready to use it in the coming days," Solana said. The New York Times said on Sunday that the Pentagon was blocking Clark's plan to send the Apache helicopters into combat against Serbian troops.

The defense secretary said there were indications that NATO bombing had weakened Serb troops, including defections of soldiers in Kosovo and reservists refusing to report after being called up by the Serb military.

He also said Serb military leaders are sending their families to safer locations in neighboring countries.

As Milosevic's forces become "systematically" weaker as a result of NATO bombing, his troops will face stronger opposition from the Kosovo Liberation Army, Cohen said.

"They (the KLA) have taken to the hills. They are regrouping," Cohen said. "They are getting money and support and some arms from other countries."

The defense secretary contended that the KLA effort will prove to be Milosevic's "quagmire, his Vietnam."

© Copyright 1999 Reuters

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