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46 Kosovo Albanians slain in 1999 are reburied

March 26, 2014

MALA KRUSA, Kosovo (AP) — Fifteen years after they were killed by Serb forces, the remains of 46 ethnic Albanian civilians were buried Wednesday in western Kosovo to the tears and wails of their relatives.

One funeral took place in the village of Mala Krusa, where 112 boys and men were killed when Serb forces rounded them up, sprayed them with bullets and then set them on fire in revenge for NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia.

Some 40 miles to the east, another 27 civilian victims, most of them members of one family, were buried in the town of Suva Reka. The remains were found in a mass grave in Serbia, part of an attempt by the authorities to cover up the killings.

The two attacks were among the worst atrocities during Kosovo’s separatist war that left some 10,000 dead, most of them ethnic Albanians.

Over 1,000 people are still considered missing from the Kosovo war.

In Mala Krusa, women donned white headscarves, a traditional show of mourning, and walked from their houses to where the flag-draped coffins were displayed. As they approached the coffins, each one marked with the name of the victim and a framed photograph, silent sobs turned into cries.

“I’ve waited for you for 15 years!” said Fiqerije Zylfiu, slumped over the coffin of her slain husband, Afrim Zylfiu. A relative wrapped his arms around her for comfort.

Some men tried to put on a brave face, wiping away their tears, but many could not hold back.

There are still 68 men unaccounted for in Mala Krusa, among them Ajshe Shehu’s four sons. The 65-year-old ran her finger along a row of photos, saying their names out loud: “Salih, 27; Sahit, 25; Driton, 20; and Nahit Shehu, 18 years old.”

Shehu said she felt relieved that some neighbors and relatives could lay their minds to rest after Wednesday’s funeral and wished she would soon find similar comfort.

“I sit underneath the shade of an apple tree and I think of their hands, their feet, their faces, their eyes. And then I tell myself: how can you live?” she asked.

NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign ended Kosovo’s war in 1999. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade has vowed never to accept the move.

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