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Tuesday, March 10, 1998 Published at 15:17 GMT

World: Europe

Women and children killed in Kosovo crackdown
image: [ The number of dead is much higher than originally reported ]
The number of dead is much higher than originally reported

Ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo have been viewing the bodies of relatives killed during last week's "security operation".

More than 50 bodies have been laid out in a shed in the town of Srbica -- centre of much of the violence -- but the relatives say the funerals will not take place on Tuesday as expected.

Some of the dead have not yet been identified and the Albanians are demanding the bodies be examined by an independently-appointed pathologist.

The Albanians have accused the police of trying to cover up the atrocities after officers reportedly threatened to bury the bodies against the relatives' wishes.

Fifty-two people, half of them women and children, were killed by Serbian police who claimed they were acting against separatist guerrillas creating unrest in the province, which is 90% ethnic Albanian.

A BBC correspondent in the region says several of the bodies were badly mutilated and others were seriously charred.

[ image: Protesters flooded the streets in protest]
Protesters flooded the streets in protest
Most seemed to have died in what appeared to have been a pitched battle in which heavy weapons might have been used.

An ethnic Albanian Human Rights activist in Srbica said the police fired indiscriminately and did not try to remove women and children from the area.

But the police claim the women and children were caught in crossfire.

The bodies were returned as ethnic Albanians held a mass demonstration in the Kosovo capital, Pristina.

Several thousand marched through the capital to protest against the violence by Serbian police.

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