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Saturday, April 17, 1999 Published at 02:10 GMT 03:10 UK

World: Europe

Serbs 'emptying Kosovo'

Three quarters of Kosovo Albanians are said to have fled

The UN refugee agency has accused the Serbs of accelerating the clearance of Kosovo, and says it fears there will soon be no ethnic Albanians left in the province.

Kosovo: Special Report
Thousands more people poured out on Friday as the United States announced it had strong new evidence of mass killings west of the regional capital, Pristina.

Nato is holding its first prisoner of war since the start of its campaign against Yugoslavia.

According to the Pentagon, fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army captured a Yugoslav soldier during a night operation in Kosovo earlier this week.

The prisoner was taken across the border and delivered to the Albanian Government, which in turn handed him over to US military authorities.

US reservists mobilised

Washington also confirmed that military reservists - possibly numbering more than 30,000 - were being mobilised to support the Nato campaign against Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia has rejected a United Nations proposal aimed at resolving the conflict over Kosovo, again ruling out the deployment of an international force.

Jeremy Bowen: "The vast majority of refugees have been driven from their homes"
Meanwhile, confusion continues over the attacks on refugee convoys in Kosovo two days ago, after Nato's political leadership refused to allow a briefing paper prepared by the military commanders to be made public.

Video evidence

[ image: Three members of a family are said to have been killed]
Three members of a family are said to have been killed
The BBC has seen further evidence of alleged killings by Serb forces.

A videotape handed over by a Kosovo Albanian refugee shows six men in civilian clothes, including three members of the same family, who were said to have been killed by Serbs for refusing to leave their home.

There is no independent confirmation of the allegations.

Some 6,000 refugees crossed into Albania on Friday and eye-witnesses spoke of a 15km (10 mile) column heading to the border.

Another 5,000 crossed into Macedonia, and 7,000 have arrived in Montenegro.

(Click here for a map showing refugee movements)

Some said the Serbs had shelled and shot at them as they left.

Brian Hanrahan: "Nato fended off calls for more information"
US State Department spokesman James Rubin said there may be up to 50,000 more people backed up at the borders.

He added there was a ''significant mass'' of graves and the US was working with the war crimes prosecutor to investigate, but he refused to elaborate further.

According to the US, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's forces have damaged or destroyed more than 400 villages and towns in Kosovo.

'75% of Kosovars in exile'

The BBC's Claire Doole: The Serbs appear to be stepping up expulsions
Less than a quarter of the province's Albanians remained in Kosovo, according to Kris Janowski, spokesman of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Refugees say entire towns are being emptied by Serb forces on the rampage. Tales of execution, torture and arson are common.

"The expulsions which were put on hold or slowed down over the last two weeks have now resumed with full force,'' said Mr Janowski.

Nato gagged over convoy attack

[ image:  ]
Nato has failed to clear up the confusion surrounding the strike on a convoy of Kosovo Albanian refugees bound for Albania two days ago.

BBC Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Nato's military command had prepared a detailed briefing document but at the last moment, Nato's political authorities refused to allow this to be made public.

The alliance has said one of its planes bombed one vehicle in a convoy. The Serbs said on Wednesday that more than 60 refugees had been killed in at least two attacks.

Nato cast doubt on whether footage broadcast by Serb TV showed their attack or another incident, or incidents, elsewhere.

The alliance said its aircraft had later attacked a second convoy, but had hit only military targets.

Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus: "Nato political authorities stopped publication of report"
Some refugees in a third convoy reported that Serb aircraft had attacked them.

But Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said on Friday there was no new information, and a video of the attack would not be made public until Nato had finished its investigation.

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