No Bread and No Buses

By an IWPR Correspondent in Pristina (BCR No 12, March 30-Mar-99)

No Bread and No Buses

By an IWPR Correspondent in Pristina (BCR No 12, March 30-Mar-99)

Thursday, 10 November, 2005

The news we hear is that tens of thousands of Albanians have been taken out of their homes in Pec, in the western part of the province, by Serbian police and are being escorted in columns towards Rozhaje over the Kosovo border in Montenegro. Albanian sources say that more than 100 people in the town have been killed, dead bodies are lying on the streets, and after shelling and looting, the old part of the town has been destroyed. Gjakovica, it seems, is also aflame, and many people have been killed there, too.

According to reports from Kosovapress, the news agency of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Serbian police entered the village of Cirez, where more than 15,000 refugees have lived in the open for more than two weeks, and forced them into a nearby military building -- a possible NATO target. The actual events here, and the number of people involved, are hard to confirm, but everyone fears mass executions.

In Pristina, the only people out on the streets are police and a great number of armed (Serbian) civilians wandering around the streets of the town, shooting in various directions. The looting, burning and general destruction continues. Shops are completely gutted, and everything taken. Cafes and restaurants -- including the small hidden cafe where all the journalists used to meet -- have been heavily damaged.

Last night there were many explosions in the town — and not just from NATO bombs. This is the case especially around Dragodan, a residential part of Pristina, where there have been constant explosions. Albanians living in private houses there are particularly vulnerable.

I don’t sleep at home at night, but in the mornings when I come back, I can see lots of blood on the ground, though it is impossible to know who was wounded or killed the previous night.

It seems that the authorities are trying to get people to flee. In many residential buildings, little papers were posted with the emblem of the Kosovo Liberation Army calling on people to leave their houses and go away from the towns.

But some regional KLA commanders denied any links with the documents, and since the Albanian language in it has many mistakes, we expect they have been posted by the authorities. This isn’t the first time counterfeit posters have been pasted around town exhorting the people to do one thing or another.

The problem is that there’s not much chance of going anyway. The bus station in Pristina is full, and buses are still travelling. But they only head north, towards Serbia, and only Serbs are allowed to board. Albanians are kicked off.

Otherwise, there is no way to get out of town. The streets are full of paramilitary units controlling the roads, and no one would dare to try to pass. Some, through bribes and other means, have apparently found a way out, and almost none of my journalist colleagues are around any more.

Even if you have some money, there's almost nothing to by in the shops. In those few that haven’t been destroyed, there’s very little to buy: no bread, no milk, no flour, no sugar. You need a fortune to buy a pack of cigarettes -— and they are becoming increasingly scarce — or medicine.

We had a better night with the phone lines last night, and we able to receive calls. But now only a few lines are still working, the mobile network is down, and we are afraid the whole system will simply be switched off soon. The Internet, through which I was able to file this report, belongs to a family linked to the Serbian government, and we expect it will also stop functioning.

Meanwhile, on state-run media proudly proclaims that "Yugoslavia has entered history as the only state that shot down a NATO plane." The burnings and destruction that we see every night are, according to Serb TV, all caused by NATO.

This report is written by an IWPR correspondent in Pristina, whose name is withheld to protect him from reprisals.

Serbia, Kosovo
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