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Yugoslavia: Kosovar Refugees Recall Terror

By Arbana Islami

Prague, 11 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The recent flight of refugees from Kosova to Albania and Montenegro is receiving international attention. Last weekend, an international delegation was allowed to visit the war zone in western Kosova.

Blerim Shala, spokesman for the ethnic Albanian group, said what was seen in Decan and nearby villages, burned and destroyed houses with a large number of people fleeing, shows that the aim of Serb military attacks is ethnic cleansing of the region. The same scenes were seen during the Bosnian war.

Although estimates about the number of refugees fleeing from Kosova differ, the refugees stories are basically the same.

Ten days after their house was destroyed, the Alimusaj family from Strelc village near Decan managed to get to city of Pec, 80 km west from Prishtina, Kosova's capital city. Tusha Alimusaj explains how she made it through the fighting zones with her children and reached Pec.

"These were the most difficult moments in my life. It all started at once. The shootings were very strong. We grabbed our children the best we could and ran away to the next village, Istiniq. These were terrible moments."

Alimusaj said they were not safe anywhere, because they were followed by shootings. Alimusaj1s young daughter, Arta, said the most terrifying part of their escape was the cries of the children.

"They were screaming and I didn't know what to do with them."

Although the Alimusaj family is now safe, they are facing the same uncertainty as their neighbors -- not knowing the whereabouts of their neighbors and loved ones. The head of the Alimusaj family, Zymer, said refugees face dangerous conditions away from their villages: "Some people from the attacked villages had to stay there and now they're probably sleeping in the streets or mountain roads. The amount of food is very low, and there are no medicines at all.

Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, also visited the war zone. Hill was involved in setting up the negotiations between Albanians and Serbs.

After his visit in Decan, he said: "The situation I have seen in Decan and all the damage caused proves how important the continuation of the political process is. We want to see setting up the conditions for continuing the talks as soon as possible, as key for solving Kosova problem."

Kosova Albanian officials expect more concrete decisions from the Contact Group meeting tomorrow in London. Kosova Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova is expected to participate in the meeting.