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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK

World: Europe

Mass graves discovered in Kosovo

A US soldier cordons off the Kacanik churchyard

American Nato peacekeepers have sealed off the cemetery in the southern Kosovo village of Kacanik where evidence of mass murders was uncovered on Monday.

Kosovo: Special Report
Yet more mass graves and evidence of Serbian ethnic cleansing operations came to light on Tuesday.

One site was found by Dutch troops in the village of Krusa, 15km northwest of Prizren.

"We found what looks like the remains of 20 burnt bodies and it was horrible," said Mike Bos, a spokesman for the Dutch K-For peacekeepers.

Ben Brown in Koliq: Eyewitnesses say 64 refugees were slaughtered here
More evidence of atrocities was also reported in villages south of the provincial capital, Pristina. In Ribari Vogel, locals told how Serb forces had slaughtered 26 people aged six to 97.

One woman said the Serbs had killed her husband and two sons, shot her in the face and burnt down her house.

The next day the Serbs reportedly moved to the village of Hallaq, where locals said they massacred another 20 people after lining them up against a wall.

The BBC's Paul Wood: A night of horror in Kacanik
And residents of Koronica in western Kosovo reported finding an estimated 150 buried bodies - victims of a massacre of village men by Serb forces.

Kacanik investigations

There are 35 fresh graves in the churchyard at Kacanik, said to contain the bodies of around 85 Kosovo Albanians.

[ image:  ]
Reports said local people had been seen removing bodies from holes in the ground and transferring them to a graveyard. A BBC correspondent says the villagers were apparently taking advantage of the Serb withdrawal to give the dead a proper burial.

War crimes investigators are on their way to the site, and the discovery is being reported to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

If the sites at Kacanik are confirmed as graves, it would be the first discovery of killings on such a scale since peacekeeping forces entered Kosovo.

Mixed reports

One villager said the victims, including children, were killed two months ago when Serbian soldiers threw grenades into a crowd and then shot all those left alive.

Ben Brown in southern Kosovo meets villagers who say they have survived Serb firing squads
But a local member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) said the grave contained victims of a Serbian ethnic cleansing operation on 9 April in the neighbouring village of Proni Rakocit.

He said that those who could run fled up the valley, but the elderly and infirm who could not were shot down by rifle and machine-gun fire from the surrounding hills.

The KLA says it cannot confirm that the graves contain the bodies of the victims of the alleged massacre, but a local doctor who was visiting the cemetery said he too believed that the elderly and infirm of the village had been killed in a massacre.

The doctor added that there had been other massacres in the area during the Nato bombing and that no-one knows who was buried in the graves.

They are all marked with numbers, rather than names.

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