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Saturday, June 12, 1999 Published at 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK


Rousing send-off for British troops

Young refugees in Macedonia chant "Nato! Nato! Go, go, go!"

As British tanks and troops spearheading the Nato advance into Kosovo from Macedonia, were given a hearty send-off by ethnic Albanian refugees.

Kosovo: Special Report
Thousands from the nearby Stankovic refugee camp near Skopje lined the road chanting: "Nato! Nato! Go, go go!"

Linda Gusia, 21, who fled the province in April, said: "This is what we have waited for from the moment the bombing started.

"As we passed through the refugee camps last night and watched the helicopters this morning it felt like really something."

[ image: Gurkhas line the road into Kosovo]
Gurkhas line the road into Kosovo
But the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is hoping that none of the refugees will be tempted to follow in K-For's wake.

The UNHCR has spent recent days counselling Kosovars in Macedonia and Albania that to return too soon would place them in grave danger.

But one news agency reported that about 70 refugees - all men - had crossed the Macedonian border into Kosovo to return to their homes.

But they may well find a scene of devastation when they get there. The first television pictures from Kosovo revealed deserted streets in border towns.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke reports from Kacanik: "Soldiers are securing the road for advancing Nato troops"
Walls were marked with bullet holes while pavements were stained with blood. Family photos and identity cards were scattered in the streets and doors on bars and shops were hanging off their hinges.

The British soldiers themselves are reported to be pleased to be in Kosovo, especially after Friday's confusion. They had been put on a high state of battle readiness and then told to stand down after news that Russian troops had entered Kosovo from the north.

[ image: Airborne troops secure a bridge at Kacanik]
Airborne troops secure a bridge at Kacanik
Some 20 miles into the province, rebel fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army came out of abandoned houses to greet British airborne paratroopers in the town of Kacanik.

They said they were looking forward to taking their families back to their homes.

They assured senior British officers that there were no mines in the town but suspected the Serbs may have left some devices on the main road.

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