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Sunday, April 4, 1999 Published at 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK

World: Europe

Investigations continue into massacre allegations

The footage is too graphic for the BBC to broadcast in full

Evidence of massacres in south-west Kosovo appears to be growing after the BBC obtained the first video-taped footage of bodies.

Kosovo: Special Report
Human rights groups are searching for more survivors of two massacres of Kosovo Albanians, believed to have been carried out by Serbs in the wake of Nato air strikes.

The US-based Human Rights Watch, and the US television network CNN have also interviewed survivors of alleged massacres in the Rejovac region, near Prizren.

Yugoslavia has angrily denounced the allegations, describing them as a "propaganda bomb".

BBC footage

At least 27 men are thought to have been executed when Serb forces attacked Velika Krusa, also known under its Albanian name of Krusa-e-Mahde.

Watch Correspondent George Alagiah's report. WARNING: Some may find pictures disturbing
One villager, Milaim Bellanica, told the BBC's George Alagiah that he had survived hidden for seven days before filming the bodies.

Mr Bellanica said that the village was surrounded by Serb forces the day after air strikes against Yugoslav targets began. The Serbs removed women, children and ageing men, he said.

The group of remaining men, numbering up to 100, tried to escape but were recaptured and shot one after the other.

[ image: The camerman says the men were killed one by one]
The camerman says the men were killed one by one
The footage, most of which is too graphic to be shown, was taken on 1 April before Mr Bellanica fled, smuggling the tape out underneath a tractor as he drove his family to safety.

The film shows corpses with bullet wounds to the back of the head, while other men appear to have been shot under the jaw.

Naming 27 of the victims, Mr Bellanica said they were local farmers. None had been fighting for the Kosovo Liberation Army.

"I have done this so my son and my grandson, the next generation, will never forget what the Serbs have done to the Albanian people," he said.

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said: "This is an appalling event. It underlines the murderous brutality with which the ethnic cleansing is being waged within Kosovo."

Further evidence

[ image:  ]
Human Rights Watch interviewed six witnessed to the alleged shooting of at least 40 Kosovo Albanians in Velika Krusa on 26 March.

The witnesses, all older people, interviewed at the Morina crossing point near Kukes, Albania, said that Yugoslav "infantry" had carried out the shootings.

Another 15 men were reportedly shot on the main road to Prizren, a report which HRW classed as "consistent and credible".

In a statement, HRW said: "Other human rights organisations, as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, are called upon to search for further evidence."

'Bodies set alight'

[ image: Bellanica: Risked his life to record footage]
Bellanica: Risked his life to record footage
Separately, CNN interviewed a witness to another alleged massacre at the neighbouring village of Mala Krusa, or Krusa-e-Vogel in Albanian.

The badly burned man, Mehmet Krasniqi, said he had been part of a pile of 112 bodies which was covered with gasoline and set on fire by Yugoslav forces.

"They separated men from women," he told the network. "But they put us men in two big rooms and started to shoot us.

"They said, 'Now Nato can save you.'"

Mr Krasniqi said he survived by pretending to be dead.

Yugoslav denials

Yugoslavia's state news agency Tanjug accused the US of launching "a new propaganda bomb" by using "the worn-out scenario of monstrous lies and loathsome accusations".

"US and other Western media have already used the scenario of staged massacres, seeing that footage of such events is a very powerful instrument for manipulating people, especially those who are not well-informed and have no access to right information."

Because the Internet can be seen by people of all ages, BBC News Online has removed one image from George Alagiah's report which might prove distressing.

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