Naskov on Tue, 8 Jun 1999 21:32:29 EDT

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Syndicate: Albanian refugees attack a gypsy family

War in The Balkans - Camps boil with anger at 'traitors' in their midst

By Kim Sengupta in Skopje 

It was the kind of scene that foreign aid workers in Macedonia's hot and
angry aid camps have dreaded, and which provides an alarming portent of
Kosovo's future when the refugees go home. 

On Saturday night, hundreds of Albanians, armed with clubs and faces
distorted with fury, set on a family of gypsies in the camp at Stenkovec
1 and almost tore them limb from limb. 

A seven-year-old boy was rescued by the timely and forthright
intervention of an aid worker, who dived into the crowd, shouting "no,
no, no". 

The family was attacked because - in the eyes of their assailants - they
were quislings - agents and also beneficiaries of the Serbian campaign
of ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. Rightly or wrongly they were thought to
belong to the teams of marauders who have swept through the villages of
Kosovo in the wake of the Serbian army and paramilitaries, looting the
possessions from the deserted houses and stacking the wares high on
their wagons. 

The savagery at Stenkovec 1 is an example of the climate of hatred and
retribution created by the recent history of Kosovo and it gives a
disturbing glimpse of what Nato troops may confront when they go into
the province and escort hundreds of thousands of Albanians back to their
ruined villages. 

Nato may offer guarantees to Kosovo's Serbs and gypsies - 10 and 2 per
cent per cent of the pre-conflict population of 1.8 million
respectively. The fact is that scores are going to be settled whatever
the alliance says and there is no way that Nato troops can sit on every
doorstep and prevent them. The likely outcome is either the mass
migration of Kosovo's Serbs and gypsies in the next few weeks or a rash
of murders in outlying villages. 

The attack on the gypsy family at the Macedonian camp casts light on the
tangled web of ethnic alliances in the Balkans. Although gypsies are
despised and persecuted in most countries of central and eastern Europe,
in Yugoslavia they were allies of the dominant Serbs in their conflicts
with Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosnians and now Kosovars. Much of the
animosity dates back to the Second World War. Both gypsies and Serbs
were victims of Yugoslavia's Nazi invaders while many Croats and
Albanians were Germany's allies. 

Refugees fleeing Kosovo have repeatedly claimed that gypsies joined the
Serbs in killing Albanians in Kosovo and looting their homes. And young
Kosovar men in the camps talk openly of the revenge they will take not
just on Serbs but on gypsies too when they return home. 

The events leading to the attack at the weekend began when an Albanian
refugee said he recognised a piece of jewellery that once belonged to
his mother round the neck of the gypsy family's 17-year-old son. The
Albanian refugee told anyone who cared to listen that gypsies had killed
his father and then robbed his mother. 

After the attack, the family were taken to a building belonging to an
aid agency, the Catholic Relief Service. While attempts were being made
to take them to hospital a second wave of refugees stormed the building
and attacked them again. They were pushed out but soon a crowd of 200
men gathered outside the building, chanting and screaming and demanding
that the gypsies should be handed over to them. 

Aid workers went to the gypsy family's tent to try and protect the
mother and three younger children. But they were set on by another crowd
of Albanians, who grabbed one of the children, a seven-year-old boy. Aid
workers managed to get the family to safety but gangs of Kosovo
Albanians began hunting the other gypsies in the camp. 

Order was restored only when Macedonian riot police intervened and
Christopher Hill, the US ambassador to Macedonia, addressed the crowd at
midnight. The ambassador promised that their claims would be
investigated and that justice would be done. 

Ed Joseph, of the Catholic Relief Service, said the attack on the
17-year-old was a terrifying experience. "The look in their eyes when
they tried to tear this boy's arms out - there was just fire in their
eyes. I was just grabbing them and shouting to leave him alone." 

Paula Gadhini, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees said: "They were bad injuries. One man's face was the
colour of an eggplant [aubergine] and his eyes were swollen shut. The
other had been beaten with a stick and had a very large wound on his
head. It was very clear that if they had been caught, they would have
been killed." 

Kosovar refugees want Nato to arrest gypsies whom they accuse of crimes
in Kosovo. The alliance is reluctant to get involved in such obscure and
impenetrable conflicts, but senior officers acknowledge that they will
have to face many such thorny dilemmas if and when they go into Kosovo. 

Following the attack on the gypsy family at Stenkovec 1 there was little
evidence of contrition among the Kosovars. One refugee, Murad Hashi,
said: "How do you think we feel when we see these people who have robbed
and murdered in Kosovo now being among us? It is natural to feel this
anger. The only way to prevent it is to try them over here or

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