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Kosovo Refugees Witnessed Horror

May 16, 1999

BLACE, Macedonia (AP) _ About 800 ethnic Albanian refugees crossed into Macedonia on Sunday and described weeks of terror in Kosovo, dodging Serb police who made door-to-door searches and surviving on scant food.

The refugees, mostly from the town of Urosevac in southern Kosovo, 30 miles from the border, are part of a new influx crossing into Macedonia as word spreads that the border is open. U.N. officials expect thousands more to follow.

The refugees told of a climate of terror in the region, as Serb police seek out men suspected of links to the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, which is fighting for independence from Serbia, the dominant republic in Yugoslavia.

Some said they had moved from house to house to protect men sought by Serb police and troops, who made regular searches, sometimes kicking down doors and demanding to know where the men were.

``It got riskier and riskier all the time,″ said Xhevahire Osmani, 37, who sent her six children to a Macedonian camp seven weeks ago but remained behind hoping to protect the family home. ``This morning I woke up having dreamt about my children, and I decided I had to leave.″

NATO’s air war against Yugoslavia began March 24. About 790,000 ethnic Albanians have since been expelled by Serb forces or fled Kosovo.

Mustafe Sfaqla, 52, said he had been on the move for the past month, never staying put for more than three days. Families, he said, survived off stockpiled food, sharing with other families and bartering.

Afrim Ibrahimi, 29, who had run errands for the KLA, slept at a different house each night to avoid Serb forces. He said he survived a beating by Yugoslav troops.

``Yesterday, the Serbs came again to our street and beat up four people and gave them an ultimatum,″ he said. ``They said the border is open. Go to Macedonia. If you don’t leave, I’ll kill you.″

Ibrahimi collected his wife and their three children, and took what he could carry to the train station.

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