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The BBC's Paul Wood in Belgrade
"There's an overwhelming sense of shock here"
 real 56k

Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK
Mass grave discoveries shift Serb mood
Pro-Milosevic demonstrators
Milosevic has some ardent supporters but the mood is changing
Recent media reports in Yugoslavia highlighting the alleged mass transport of ethnic Albanians' corpses from Kosovo have begun to change the way ordinary people feel about co-operation with the international war crimes tribunal.

On the same day that former President Slobodan Milosevic was extradited to the tribunal, Yugoslav investigators exhumed at least 36 bodies - including those of children - from a mass grave near the capital, Belgrade.

The bodies were thought to be those of Kosovo Albanians removed from Kosovo as part of a cover-up allegedly ordered by Mr Milosevic during his military campaign in 1999.

A few days earlier, a lorry driver gave gruesome details about the alleged transport of bodies during the war two years ago in an attempt to destroy evidence of war crimes.


I opened the door, arms fell out and I saw the corpse of a woman with a child, and next to her an older person

Zhivadin Djeordjevic
Police diver

A recent opinion poll showed for the first time that a majority were in favour of extraditing former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to face charges in The Hague.

Body disposal

According to reports in the Serbian press, a refrigerator lorry packed with bodies broke down in Tekija, eastern Serbia, in April 1999 on its way to an unknown destination for disposal.

The lorry was then clumsily loaded with concrete blocks and dumped in the river.

When it floated to the surface several days later, local police employed divers to examine it.

One of those divers was Zhivadin Djeordjevic.

"At the moment when my colleague and I opened the door, arms fell out and I saw the corpse of a woman with a child, and next to her an older person," he said.

State secret

The state security service immediately declared the incident a state secret and the bodies of 86 Albanians were taken to the Batajnica suburb of Belgrade and buried beneath the firing range of a police training school.

mass grave
The interior ministry is investigating sites of alleged mass graves

Now bulldozers have cleared the top soil to reveal a layer of human remains, and the Serbian public is hearing evidence that such lorry journeys were a frequent occurrence.

The latest horrific allegations were published in Thursday's edition of the independent weekly magazine, Vreme.

In the article, a man now said to be under the witness protection programme of the Hague tribunal gives details of 10 journeys he made in the spring of 1999, from military camps in Kosovo to a copper-smelting complex at Bor in eastern Serbia.

He claims that on one occasion, he opened the back of the lorry and found it packed to the ceiling with bodies.

1,000 bodies

Other lorry drivers have come forward, saying they made similar journeys from Kosovo to two mass grave sites already unearthed by the Serbian police - one in Batajnica, near Belgrade, and another at Petrovo Selo in eastern Serbia.

The Yugoslav Interior Minister, Dusan Mihajlovic, has said evidence exists of a meeting between the then president Slobodan Milosevic and senior police and military chiefs in March 1999, at which Mr Milosevic allegedly ordered the disposal of war crimes evidence.

The minister has also said that he believes over 1,000 bodies were moved.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica
Pressure is mounting on the Belgrade authorities

A recent opinion poll showed 46% of those asked were in favour of Mr Milosevic's extradition to The Hague, and 36% against.

"I think people got genuinely shocked by the fact that bodies are now being discovered in their own backyard," said Dejan Anastasijevic, a journalist at Vreme magazine.

"They're disgusted not so much by the crime itself but by this pathetic and grizzly cover-up attempt and I think they want to see people responsible for this taken to justice."

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See also:

18 Jun 01 | Europe
Milosevic prosecution in trouble
18 Apr 01 | Europe
Milosevic's life behind bars
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