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Saturday, April 10, 1999 Published at 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK


World: Europe

New exodus from Kosovo

Rufugees in Macedonia wait to be flown out of the region

The expulsion of refugees from Kosovo has restarted, prompting fears of a new wave of ethnic cleansing.

Kosovo: Special Report
About 1,500 people from a village near the capital, Pristina, were forced by Serb troops to leave the country.

Hundreds of refugees have also entered Macedonia, although at one crossing point the Yugoslav authorities turned back a line of vehicles that eye-witnesses said stretched for miles.

Kosovo's border with Albania had been closed for several days and the overnight exodus caught aid agencies by surprise.


Duncan Kennedy reports on new refugees arriving with familiar stories of brutality
Around 200 families crossed the main border point into Albania. They came from the village of Vragolja, about 70 miles inside Kosovo.

The refugees said they were stripped of their money, valuables and identification documents before being escorted to the Albanian border in cars and tractors.

(Click here for a map showing latest refugee movements)

BBC Correspondent Duncan Kennedy in Kukes said it is not clear whether the new expulsions mean the Serbs intend to start a new wave of ethnic cleansing or whether it was a one-off show of force against an isolated community.

No let-up in bombing

The latest exodus came as Nato continued its bombing campaign, despite heavy cloud cover.


[ image:  ]
The 17th night of raids coincided with the end of Orthodox Good Friday - which Serbia had suggested should be marked by a ceasefire.

Explosions were reported in Belgrade and around the towns of Novi Sad, Nis, Cacak and Bor.

In Kosovo itself, officials said a state television transmitter at Golec, near Pristina, was destroyed.

Further explosions and were reported after air-raid sirens sounded in the southern Serbian towns of Nis and Kraljevo on Saturday.

Fighting was also reported between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

A spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, speaking in the Albanian capital, Tirana, said renewed clashes broke out on Saturday morning on the Yugoslav border with Albania.

In a BBC interview by satellite phone, a KLA commander inside Kosovo, Lilak Celaj, said: "They attacked three houses full of refugees, and 11 of them are dead now, and more than 50 are wounded."


Kevin Connolly: "Neither side now expects a quick solution"
In Belgrade, hundreds of people gathered outside the headquarters of Serbian television to form a human shield.

Around 2,000 went to the Branko Bridge over the Sava River which links the old town with the new.

On a stage in the middle of the bridge, bands played and the crowd heard patriotic poems.

Stakes raised over troops

As the bombing continues, United States President Bill Clinton is coming under pressure from Congress to acknowledge that ground forces may yet be needed.


[ image:  ]
Nine Congressman returning from a visit to Nato in Europe told the president in a letter: "We believe it prudent for the United States to urge Nato to plan for additional military missions, including the use of ground forces."

On Friday, Russian President Boris Yeltsin threatened to intervene if Nato launched a ground war.

Mr Yeltsin said: "Don't push us to military action, since that will certainly lead to a European war or even a world war, which is inadmissible."

He warned that missiles could be re-targeted on Serbia's attackers if a ground war began.

However the West has played down the threats.

UK defence officials say Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has been reassured by his Russian counterpart that Moscow has no intention of getting involved in the conflict in the Balkans.


Duncan Kennedy: "They arrive in trucks, tractors and cars"
BBC Moscow Correspondent Andrew Harding said Mr Yeltsin's comments were probably designed more to appease domestic critics than to alarm Nato.

Nevertheless, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will meet in Oslo on 13 April to discuss the crisis.

Firepower strengthened

The United States has said it is sending six more F-15E fighter jets to Europe for use in the Nato campaign and is leaving a ship with a hospital on it in the Mediterranean to help with refugees.

At least 24 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters currently stationed in Germany are due in Albania in the next few days.


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