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Wednesday, March 11, 1998 Published at 03:40 GMT

World: Europe

Sadness and rage as Kosovo buries its dead
image: [ Relatives wait in sorrow to identify the dead ]
Relatives wait in sorrow to identify the dead

Ethnic Albanians solemnly filed past charred and disfigured corpses shrouded by long white sheets, trying to recognise relatives who died in last week's police operation in Kosovo.

Paul Wood reports on the rising tensions in Kosovo
Amid the mourning, they were unable to suppress their outrage.

"This genocide has dashed all hopes that we could live together with Serbs again," said a man who gave his name only as Rexhep.

BBC Correspondent Karen Coleman says, if the burial reports are confirmed, it will fuel divisions (38")
He was speaking before reports emerged that around 50 ethnic Albanians killed in the police operation have already been buried on the orders of the Serbian authorities but without the consent of the families of the dead.

The families had refused to bury the dead, insisting that the bodies be examined by independent pathologists to try to prove allegations that they were abused and executed.

According to the reports, the bodies were taken from a makeshift mortuary and buried in the village of Prekaz.

Serbian police allegedly ordered a company of firefighters to bury them in ditches which village residents had dug in the morning.

[ image: Anger at the Serb action]
Anger at the Serb action
Turmoil in Serb-ruled province of Kosovo has caused fears that neighbouring Balkan countries might be drawn into the conflict, prompting Western nations to call for a political solution.

Ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs in Kosovo nine to one. Many want to secede from Serbia, the dominant republic in the Yugoslav federation.

Gruesome stories

Earlier, a BBC correspondent who saw ethnic Albanians file past corpses trying to recognise relatives said the state of the remains was a stark reminder of just how forceful the Serb police were in their offensive.

[ image: White sheets cover the wounds]
White sheets cover the wounds
Grim-faced Albanian men stood in ankle-deep mud in front of the corpses, many averting their eyes from the gruesome sight.

One dead woman appeared to have been pregnant. A small, dark-haired dead boy with open eyes seemed to be reaching for his mother who lay next to him.

A man, whose wife and three sons were killed, told the BBC that he had escaped with his life by hiding in his house from the forces until he could sneak away.

He said the police never gave any of them a chance to give themselves up.

Funerals delayed

The funerals of those ethnic Albanians killed during last week's violence have been postponed.

They were to have taken place on Tuesday, but many of the more than 50 bodies still have to be identified.

The Serbs had originally said that only 28 had been killed. They later admitted that women and children had been caught in the cross-fire.

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