Home > 1997-1999 from the Balkans, Kosovo, Serbia > Massacre overshadows Serb ceasefire claim

Massacre overshadows Serb ceasefire claim

September 30, 1998

by Guy Dinmore in Gornje Obrinje, Serbia

Evidence came to light yesterday of one of the worst atrocities committed against ethnic Albanian civilians in Serbia’s Kosovo province.

The massacre of women and children, allegedly committed by special police units on Saturday, has overshadowed the government’s announcement of a ceasefire and, diplomats said, would add to calls for Nato intervention.

Senior western envoys, who toured Kosovo yesterday to see refugees and their ruined villages, were visibly shocked when handed a report written by the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission on the latest atrocity.
In a thickly wooded gully near the village of Gornje Obrinje, some 15 miles west of Pristina, the provincial capital, diplomats and reporters found the bodies of five women and four children. The youngest was 18- month-old Valmiri Delija.

It was not clear how the infant had died but the others had been shot at close range in the back of the head as they tried to flee up the muddy slope.

Up the valley, the charred remains of 95-year-old Fazli Delija lay in the ruins of his burnt-out house. Two dead men were found close to a trail of trees that had been destroyed by a tank.

Altogether reporters found 19 bodies. All were in civilian dress. Villagers said they were all from the Delija clan. One six-month-old baby survived, found next to the body of its mother.  Sadri Delija said he was with the women and children hiding in the woods last Friday when police attacked their village.

On Saturday morning he saw police, in various kinds of uniform, approaching their shelter. As he fled he heard screams and gunfire. Serbian officials had no immediate comment. Diplomats noted that seven policemen had been killed in the same area on Friday and that it was possible the massacre had been carried out in retaliation.

Envoys touring Kosovo said the killings and the worsening humanitarian crisis would add to pressure on Nato to intervene, although they admit it is not clear how planned air strikes would end the violence. Kosovo Albanians yesterday rejected Serbia’s new provisional government for the province and official Serb claims that its offensive against KLA “terrorists” was over.

A heavy artillery bombardment continued on Monday evening in southern Kosovo. Yesterday diplomats were stopped by police from approaching the area but could see villages burning in the distance.
Zivadin Jovanovic, Yugoslav foreign minister, speaking at the UN in New York, insisted that the fighting had stopped and that “anti-terrorist actions have been completed – this is a clear, very responsible statement of policy from the highest levels.”

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