|The conflict in Kosovo left around 13,000 people dead, most of them ethnic Albanians [File: EPA]|
Serbian prosecutors have indicted nine former Serb paramilitaries over the killing of at least 43 ethnic-Albanian civilians during the 1998 to 1999 conflict in Kosovo.
A statement from the office of the Serbian war crimes prosecutor said on Saturday that the nine men, who were arrested earlier this year, had been charged with killing the civilians in the village of Cuska, near the western Kosovo town of Pec, in May 1999.
The indictees were members of a paramilitary unit known as Sakali (Jackals), the statement from Vladimir Vukcevic’s office said.
It added that the indictees committed the killings, violent acts, rapes and robberies in an “extremely brutal way” with the “main goal to spread fear among the Kosovo Albanian population forcing them to leave their homes and go to Albania”.
Members of the unit are also suspected of killing Hasan Ceku, the father of Agim Ceku, the former Kosovo prime minister and ex-commander of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, and several members of his family, the statement said.
Seventeen other people, who are on the run, are suspected of taking part in the crimes and feature on Interpol’s wanted list, the prosecutor’s bureau said.
The indictments are the result of a probe that the war crimes prosecutor’s office led in co-operation with Eulex, the European Union mission in Kosovo.
The conflict in Kosovo left around 13,000 people dead, most of them ethnic Albanians.
The fighting was ended by an 11-week Nato bombing campaign against Serbian forces under the command of Slobodan Milosevic, the late Serbian president, who waged a brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic-Albanian rebels and their civilian supporters.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 – a move recognised by the United States and most EU member countries, but challenged by Belgrade.