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Victims of Kosovo War Still Searching for Loved Ones

  • Laura Konda

It's been nine years since NATO air strikes ended Serbia's deadly crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo. Serbia's campaign of ethnic cleansing forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Most returned, but there are still nearly 2,000 people unaccounted for. Most are ethnic Albanians but 400 are Serbs who went missing after the war. VOA's Laura Konda was recently in Kosovo where she spoke to some of the families of the missing.

It is estimated that 10,000 people died during the war in Kosovo including nearly 2,000 that have never been accounted for. Most of the missing are ethnic Albanians from four towns and villages: Gjakova, Krusha, Klina and Rahovec.

Eyewitnesses say on March 26, 1999, Serbian military troops entered Krusha and forcibly apprehended all of the men and young boys in the village. The women and children fled to Albanian. They never saw their husbands, sons and brothers again.

Hatixhe Asllani lost her husband and three sons that day. "It's difficult… although now things are better, I think it's hard to find them," she said.

Family members say there is little hope any of the missing are still alive. But they want the bodies returned so they can receive a proper burial.

Hanusha Batusha, 83, from Krusha lost three sons and five grandsons in the 1999 raid. Only one body has been recovered.

"Only one. Seven are still missing. We want to bring them here, so they can rest in their own place," Batusha said.

While some in the Serbian government deny the attack ever took place, Agron Limani, director of the March 26, 1999 Association says there are eyewitnesses to the tragedy.

Limani says, "We're lucky that six people have survived this massacre, they are the eyewitnesses of the massacre, as well as the women and children under 12 years old, they can tell what happened that day."

Limanis says of the 112 victims that day, only 21 bodies have been found. Many believe that not enough is being done to find the missing. Nysrete Kumnova, the head of "The Mothers Call" association lost two family members in the Kosovo war. She says despite providing all of the needed information to local and international officials, little is being done to determine the fate of their loved ones.

There are still nearly 2,000 missing people from Kosovo war. Most of them, nearly 1,500 are ethnic Albanians, 400 are Serbs and about 100 from other communities.

Human Rights Watch is pressuring the international community and the Kosovo government to investigate the fate of the missing people. Many human rights experts say that holding those responsible for crimes accountable is essential to ensure a lasting peace in Kosovo.

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