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Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK

World: Europe

US probes Serb rape allegations

Serb soliders are said to have carried out systematic rape

The United States is investigating reports that young Kosovo women are being systematically raped at a Serb army camp and that up to 20 of them have been killed.

Kosovo: Special Report
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said that according to accounts from Kosovo, women were being herded into a training camp at Dakovica in the southwest of the province where they were raped by troops.

It is the first time the Pentagon has issued a specific charge of such an atrocity by Serb forces in their drive against Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, although US officials have been reporting widespread war crimes.

Mr Bacon described the allegations as ''very disturbing'' and said the US would be trying to confirm them over the next few days.

Matt Frei: "There are as many horror stories as there are victims"
"This is a very eerie and disturbing echo of documented instances of rape and killing of women in Bosnia during the Bosnia war and it is obviously outrageous that this is occurring," he added.

During the 1992 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina thousands of women were forced into ''rape camps'' by Serbian militia.

The accounts received by the Pentagon are backed up by similar reports of systematic rape now emerging from Kosovo refugees who have fled the province.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, told the BBC the refugees had experienced "a lot of atrocities - no doubt rape, beating, burning houses."


Consistent accounts are emerging of soldiers separating women from groups of refugees, apparently with the intention of raping them.

There are also eyewitness reports of women fleeing Kosovo being taken into a border checkpoint building, apparently to be raped.

In other instances, soldiers are demanding 1,000 Deutschmarks ($500) from women, in payment for not being raped.

Mrs Ogata, who was speaking after a visit to the refugee camps in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said she had raised the issue with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

BBC Correspondent Matt Frei says the allegations of rape are reaching authorities even though many women find it difficult to talk about it due to religious reasons.

Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, president of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal said she was "stunned and horrified" at reports from Kosovo, which included "allegations of indiscriminate violence, destruction and theft of property, mass roundups, and systematic torture, rape and murder".

Ama Annan of the British charity Christian Aid, who visited the refugee camps earlier this week, also said women had spoken of being raped.

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