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Saturday, June 19, 1999 Published at 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK

World: Europe

Eyewitness: Disarming the KLA

KLA fighters are detained by German KFor troops in Prizren

By Ben Brown in Kosovo

As Serb refugees pour out of Kosovo fearing reprisals from the Kosovo Liberation Army, it is Nato's task to contain and disarm the KLA rebel fighters.

Ben Brown reports on disarming the KLA
When the rebels come down from the hills, they are shocked to be met by Nato troops, their allies in the war, demanding the immediate surrender of their weapons.

It is not the hero's welcome they had expected.

A meeting between Nato and top KLA commanders this weekend is almost certain to agree to a surrender of the KLA arsenal.

Kosovo: Special Report
But this will be a painful process for the fighters. Smuggling the weapons into the province was an expensive business and the rebels are loathe to give them up.

Lirac Celaj, a KLA spokesman, said: "It was very hard to bring these weapons through the Albanian border and other countries. Many friends of ours died trying to bring over these weapons. This is one of the reasons why Nato should not disarm us."

Some KLA fighters may hide their weapons rather than hand them in. Getting them to surrender their arms is not going to be easy for Nato troops.

'Only a fraction' confiscated

[ image: A KLA fighter unloads his gun under the watchful eye of German K-For troops]
A KLA fighter unloads his gun under the watchful eye of German K-For troops
British troops in Kosovo believe that they have confiscated only a fraction of the KLA arsenal, thought to total some 20,000 guns.

What they seize they take to a remote field and blow up. The KLA have asked them to keep them and lock them up but Nato does not consider that an option.

Major Ian Seraph of the British Army, said: "Now is the time for them to come out of the hills and hand over their weapons so that we can start to move forward the process of reconstruction and regeneration."

[ image: One of the survivors of the KLA torture chamber]
One of the survivors of the KLA torture chamber
In the town of Prizren on Friday, KLA rebels were forced to leave a police station they had been occupying.

They were found by German troops who discovered that the fighters had turned it into a torture chamber in which suspected collaborators had been imprisoned and beaten. The body of a 70-year-old man was found handcuffed to a chair.

The prisoners who were freed are lucky to be alive.

There has been barbarism on both sides: neither has a monopoly on cruelty.

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