Serbia discovers mass grave of Kosovo Albanians

BELGRADE, Serbia — Acting on tips from witnesses, Serbian war crimes prosecutors have discovered a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of 250 Albanians who were killed in Kosovo during the 1998-99 war there, then transported to Serbia and secretly buried to hide the atrocities, officials said Monday.

Serbia's war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic speaks during a news conference in Belgrade

Serbia's war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic speaks during a news conference in Belgrade

BELGRADE, Serbia — Acting on tips from witnesses, Serbian war crimes prosecutors have discovered a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of 250 Albanians who were killed in Kosovo during the 1998-99 war there, then transported to Serbia and secretly buried to hide the atrocities, officials said Monday.

The burial site — hidden beneath a small building and a newly built parking lot — is the fourth mass grave of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo that has been found in Serbia since 2001. Two others were discovered in Kosovo. In each case, most of the bodies were those of civilians, including women and children.

The latest discovery is another example of the mass atrocities that were committed during the bloody Serb crackdown on the Kosovo separatists that killed at least 10,000 people and left nearly a million displaced.

Hundreds of bodies of slain ethnic Albanians have been exhumed in Serbia and returned to Kosovo since Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power in a popular revolt in 2000. The previously discovered mass graves in Serbia represented the bulk of genocide charges filed against Milosevic at a U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Netherlands, where he died of a heart attack during his trial in 2006.

Serbia has since tried to deal with its wartime past as it seeks European Union membership, which requires the prosecution of those who committed atrocities during the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s. Milosevic’s policies still have strong support among ultranationalists in Serbia.

“According to witness testimonies, there are 250 bodies of Kosovo Albanians inside” the newly discovered grave, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said at a news conference Monday in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital.

He said exhumations would begin soon at the site, which was discovered based on witness accounts and in co-operation with a European Union mission in Kosovo.

Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor’s office said the grave is located in a hilly, rural area of Rudnica, near the town of Raska, 180 kilometres (108 miles) south of Belgrade.

Aerial photos of the site showed a house and a small parking lot near a road nestled between the hills. Vukcevic’s deputy, Bruno Vekaric, said the mass grave is believed to be located beneath the building and the parking lot.

Officials did not say when the grave was discovered.

During the Kosovo war, the bodies of Kosovo victims were brought to Serbia by Milosevic’s regime in an attempt to cover up the atrocities against civilians.

Some 1,860 ethnic Albanians are still missing from the Kosovo war, many believed to have been buried by Serb forces in similar mass graves in Serbia.

“Serbia has the democratic capacity to face what happened,” Vukcevic said. “It is our obligation to the victims who have the right to bury the dead.”

The brutality of Serbia’s crackdown in Kosovo prompted NATO to bomb the country in 1999, forcing Milosevic to pull out his troops. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade refuses to recognize it.

In Kosovo on Monday, officials urged Serbia to face up to its past and overcome its troubled relations with Kosovo Albanians.

Kosovo deputy Prime Minister, Rame Manaj, claimed the discovery was a result of pressure from the EU.

“This comes too late, but this pressure from the international community is welcome as it is the only force that can move things from point zero,” Manaj said of the discovery of the bodies.

“It is painful news,” said Xhavit Beqiri, the spokesman for Kosovo’s president.

“We suspect there are more Kosovo victims in other such mass graves around Serbia which Belgrade has always known about, but has selectively unearthed them to reduce the scope of the crimes committed in Kosovo,” Beqiri said.

Vukcevic urged Kosovo’s authorities to investigate the fate of about 500 Kosovo Serbs who he said remain unaccounted for since the 1998-99 war after revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians.


Associated Press writers Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade and Nebi Qena in Pristina contributed to this report.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man rides his bicycle past fields covered with volcanic ash a day after the La Soufriere volcano erupted, in Kingstown, on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Saturday, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Lucanus Ollivierre)
‘Huge’ explosion rocks St. Vincent as volcano keeps erupting

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — La Soufriere volcano fired an enormous amount of… Continue reading

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
Canada set to receive 1M Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Moderna playing catch-up

OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting Moderna to make good on… Continue reading

This satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Iran's Natanz nuclear site suffered a problem Sunday, April 11, involving its electrical distribution grid just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich uranium, state TV reported. It was the latest incident to strike one of Tehran's most-secured sites amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)
Iran blames Israel for sabotage at Natanz nuclear site

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran blamed Israel on Monday for a… Continue reading

Map of Syria. Turkey is to the north. (File photo)
Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

The Montreal Police logo is seen on a police car in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

MONTREAL — Hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal on Sunday in defiance… Continue reading

Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Most Read