Serbia police detain 9 ex-paramilitaries accused of war crimes in Kosovo

By Jovana Gec, AP
Saturday, March 13, 2010

Serbian police detain 9 over alleged war crimes

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian police have detained nine former paramilitary fighters suspected of killing civilians and looting homes during the Kosovo war, a war crimes prosecutor said Saturday.

The group were detained on Friday, prosecutor Bruno Vekaric told The Associated Press. Vekaric said the nine are accused of killing 41 ethnic Albanian civilians in the village of Cuska in May 1999.

Vekaric said that in total 26 people are under investigation for the massacres of 200 people in Cuska and the surrounding villages, which took place during the NATO air war against Serbia.

“Horrific crimes were committed there,” Vekaric said. “The only motive was looting.”

Natasa Kandic, a prominent human rights activist who has investigated war crimes in Kosovo, said the attack on Cuska was a “well-planned, organized action.”

She said the Serb troops raided the village, separated men from the women and children and looted them before rounding them up in a house which was then set on fire.

“Two men managed to jump out of the house and run away,” Kandic told the AP. “I later saw the remains of that house and the bones of the victims.”

Kandic added that the crime in Cuska “illustrates the liberty to kill that was widespread then.”

Vekaric said that many of the suspects live outside Serbia but have been located and will be arrested.

Thousands of people, many of them civilians, were killed during the 1998-99 war.

The arrests in Serbia are a sign of the pro-Western government’s resolve to deal with the war crimes of the Balkan wars as it seeks European Union membership.

The war in Kosovo ended after NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days in 1999. Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

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