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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK

World: Europe

Massacre victims buried

The women of Bela Crvka mourn as their relatives are buried

By Michael Voss in Bela Crkva

The bodies of 65 Kosovo villagers massacred by Serb forces have at last been laid to rest.

Kosovo: Special Report
A group of children led the funeral procession through the village of Bela Crkva.

Each carried a framed photograph of a family member killed in the massacre.

And in a field above the village, an armed honour guard of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighters stood beside the freshly dug graves.

John McIntyre in Bela Crkva: "The saddest of days"
Earlier, hundreds of villagers gathered in a schoolyard to join relatives of the dead for the Muslim burial service.

According to eye witnesses, the 65 villagers were rounded up and murdered by Serb forces the day after Nato began air strikes on Yugoslavia.

[ image: The grief of Bela Crkva]
The grief of Bela Crkva
Among the dead were men, women and children, the youngest just four years old.

All the bodies have been examined by a team of British police and forensic experts.

"Obviously, I've dealt with murders before, but I've never seen anything like this in my life," said a British investigator, Detective Constable John Boytal-Gil.

Michael Voss: The massacre victims are at last laid to rest
Mr Boytal-Gil told me villagers had pointed out to investigators the mass graves that they had had to dig.

"One had 33 bodies in it, another had six, another had seven, and so on," he said.


The discovery of the graves prompted condemnation from the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook.

[ image: Pause for thought amid graves of 65 villagers]
Pause for thought amid graves of 65 villagers
"This touches a new low, even by the dreadful standards set by the Serb forces in Kosovo," said Mr Cook.

"How could anyone put a gun to a four-year-old child and pull the trigger?

"The people who did this are not human.

"These children cannot conceivably have been a danger to anyone, but the Serb forces clearly saw every Albanian of whatever age as an enemy."

War crimes indictments

The Bela Crkva massacre is one of the charges included in the UN War Crimes Tribunal's indictment of the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic.

John Boytal-Gil: I've dealth with murders before, but nothing on this scale
Bela Crkva is the first site investigation to be completed, and the grim secrets of the bodies now laid to rest are being forwarded to prosecutors at The Hague.

The survivors hope that the evidence gathered in Bela Crkva could help convict Mr Milosevic - if he ever comes to trial.

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