PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) — Thousands of refugees from Serbia’s Kosovo province streamed into neighboring Albania on Monday to escape some of the deadliest fighting in months. Dozens of people were reported killed.
Albania appealed to the United States and European Union to intervene in what it said was a “massacre” in Kosovo.
With 39 people reported killed over the weekend and fighting apparently continuing, the bloodshed appeared the worst since March, when Serb police killed more than 80 people in a crackdown on militants among the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo.
Ethnic Albanian leaders said 37 Albanians were killed over the weekend. Twenty-seven died in clashes in Decani while 10 were killed when Serb police stormed another village, they said.
Serb sources said two Serb policemen also died in the fighting around Decani, 45 miles west of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina.
The fierce fighting forced about 2,000 Kosovo Albanians — mostly women, children and the elderly — across the border into Albania’s Tropoja region on Sunday and Monday. Albanian officials said more were arriving by the hour.
In Tropoja, refugees said they had walked for up to 20 hours to reach the border. They said Serb forces were besieging Decani and Serb tanks were inside the town.
Tropoja, although some three miles inside Albanian territory, resembled a community under siege, with most of the men carrying rifles or other weapons. Some men displayed the insignia of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the militant Kosovo organization spearheading the fight against Serbia.
Authorities in Serbia are using Serb police and the Yugoslav army to try to crush militants and maintain control over Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian.
The conflict has killed more than 200 people in Kosovo since the beginning of March. About half of the province is believed controlled by militant Albanians and many regions are blocked off, either by Serbs or Albanians.