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Kosovars Must Wait To Bury Dead

June 19, 1999

CARA LUKA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Gani Krasniqi looks at his watch, then down at his shoes. Beyond him, in the charred remains of his brother’s house, lie the yellowing skeletons of his family. This is the seventh day, he says, that he has been waiting to bury his dead.

A week ago Saturday, Krasniqi came down from the mountains to find the bodies he believes belong to the missing members of his family _ nine women and 13 children.

He wants to bury them, but members of the Kosovo Liberation Army told him to wait until war crimes investigators can verify what happened.

So far, no one has come.

Reporters who visited the site Saturday saw only the rib cages and the skulls of six or seven charred, dismembered bodies through the sooty remains of a crumbling window. Bones lay scattered across what once was a roof.

Krasniqi is convinced all 22 are buried there in the rubble.

``If the others were alive, I know they would tell me they are OK,″ he said.

Krasniqi, 43, now lives in the basement of a neighboring house with his wife and two nephews. He is one of many across Kosovo who are waiting for forensic experts to arrive and verify the crimes _ and to bury their dead.

British soldiers in some parts of the Drenica region have already given up on the forensics and have gone ahead and buried bodies for health reasons, according to Anna Cataldi, a U.N. representative.

Krasniqi says it’s not health risk or even the sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh that hangs over the courtyard that worries him. He’s afraid other members of his family will return home from the village where they have been staying since the war began and see the remains.

``It will be too hard for them,″ he said. ``They won’t be able to stand it.″

In addition, Krasniqi said he can’t dig through the rubble to search for the bones that have been scattered by scavenging animals.

``I am all alone and don’t have the tools and equipment I need. I don’t have a mask or gloves,″ he said.

``I will wait a few more days, then I will have to do something. I can’t leave them there forever.″

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