Novosti (BG) 11 SOLDIERS FOUND ALIVE IN KOSOVO PRISON CAMP
- Vecernje Novosti, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
30 April, 1 - 2 May, 2001
11 YUGOSLAV ARMY SOLDIERS, RESERVISTS FOUND ALIVE IN PRISON CAMP IN KOSOVO
TWO YEARS IN CHAINS
Bound in chains, ragged, they sleep on boards. The Shiptars
take them blindfolded to build Albanian houses. Of 1,300
civilians imprisoned since the arrival of KFOR, it is feared
that only 760 are still alive. Some of the abducted were
transferred to Albania. The Shiptars are offering from one
to three million German marks for their terrorists
by RADMILA OGNJENOVIC
Three days after the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement, nine Yugoslav Army
soldiers and reservists were abducted in Kosovo. They were kidnapped on June
13, 1999 while pulling out Yugoslav Army equipment from Suva Reka. At that
point all sign of them disappeared.
None of the people from the previous government, none of those who had sent
them there, wanted to so much as admit that the abduction had even occurred.
Not even that much. The government changed but still no one wanted to talk
about these kidnapped young men. Then suddenly their families were startled
to receive news seemingly out of nowhere - �they�re alive�!
HEROIN THE TICKET
The parents of the abducted had done everything possible to be able to once
again embrace their sons. Desperate appeals for assistance were sent to more
than 40 addresses. They wrote, they begged, they wept, they pleaded for
help. They camped on the doorstep of the [Yugoslav Army�s] General Staff,
the Yugoslav Parliament, various ministries, the Red Cross... No one
Then one woman, acting alone, took matters into her own hands. A Serb from
Kosovo, an acquaintance of one of the big Albanian narcotics bosses, she
promised that she would help them to find their sons.
We interviewed her for �Novosti�. The first thing she asked us was not to
mention her name. There are many reasons. She must return, she says, and
continue what she has begun. To save at least some. Even though she try to
get them all out.
She owes her success to her friend, who gave the heads of the prison camp
two kilograms of heroin to allow her into where the imprisoned soldiers are
With the group of soldiers from Suva Reka are also two reservists abducted
by the Shiptar terrorists, one in Kacilov on May 18, 1999, the other on June
14 of the same year in the area of Urosevac. The 11 prisoners, she claims,
were housed in the American base near Urosevac up to November 15 of last
year; then they were transferred to the prison camp where she found them.
�What I saw was horrible and heartbreaking. Most of them are officers. All
of them are in chains. They have chains on their feet and one sneaker or
shoe each. They sleep on the floor or on boards in torn sweatsuits,� says
the Serb woman.
The parents of three of the abducted young men also listen to her story. The
youngest of them is only 23 years old. They are dumb with pain. They fidget
with their hands and gaze off into the distance. Then they look down at the
floor to hide their tears. Sobs can also be heard and yet another plea for
help. The story continues:
�They are taken blindfolded to what are to them unknown location to build
Albanian houses; then they are brought back to the prison camps, hungry and
bound. Then they take them even further away, to Glogovac, Pristina,
Surekovac, where they also build houses for others. A few of them were taken
away to Albania, to the towns of Kuks and Bajram Curi�. They live, she says,
like slaves. If you can call that living.
HALF STILL ALIVE
The Serb woman also talks about the abducted civilians. There have been
1,300 of them since the arrival of KFOR in Kosovo. She claims that about
half of them are still alive, some 760 of them. Part of them, too, were
transferred to Albania, Tropoja and Gostivar, while part remained in Kosovo.
There, claims our source, they were divided up into groups of five or six
and placed in private prison camps located in practically every Albanian
house. They are used, she says, as slave labor.
�KFOR and UNMIK have encoded lists of the abducted. They know exactly who is
located where but they are not doing anything about it. After all, they are
selling arms to those same Shiptars; it�s common knowledge,� the Serb woman
continues. �Luckily for us, among them there are also some people who want
to help us. An American KFOR officer who is a lieutenant colonel in the CIA
advised us to give an ultimatum. That our government shouldn�t release any
more Albanians from prison until an exchange is agreed upon. That we have to
ask for our people in exchange for every one of theirs.
The Shiptars, we learned, are ready to do anything to get their people back.
Depending on their importance for �their cause�, they are offering from one
to three million German marks for their terrorists. Money is no object for
them, explains our source, since they are unrivalled in drug smuggling, an
activity almost everyone in Kosovo is involved in.
The parents of the abducted men also talk with us. They bare their souls.
They relive again what hurts them the most. One of the men in the prison
camp described by our source is Ivica, the son of Slobodan Jovanovic. He was
born on April 9, 1963 in Pancevo. Abducted June 13, 1999 in Suva Reka with
the others. He turned 38 while imprisoned. A reservist. His little daughter,
Anita, will be three this June. It may well be yet another fatherless
�My Ivica was called up on June 7. He was in Nis for three days and then he
and his comrades were sent to Kosovo,� says Slobodan. He pauses before
continuing. �They were supposed to pull out the remaining military technical
equipment from Pec and Djakovica, and they completed this. They returned to
Vranje and then they were split up and sent back to Kosovo on that June 13th
to pull out decoys of some sort. They were accompanied from Vranje by an
escort of only five soldiers despite the fact that their commanding officers
knew they needed to secure two entire trains loaded with military and
It was about 6 p.m., continues Slobodan, when they encountered barricades at
Suva Reka. The Shiptar terrorists surrounded them from all sides. Shooting
broke out. They fought for hours until about 11 p.m. when the surviving
soldiers were captured. The terrorists got them and the trains loaded with
equipment... That�s how my Ivica was kidnapped.
The parents and families of the kidnapped and missing have founded an
association, organized themselves to more easily find and save their
children. They say they have no objection to the release of Albanians who
are not accused of terrorism from our prisons; however, they also note, for
the benefit of anyone who will listen, that their sons were not terrorists,
�None of them went there of his own free will,� says Slobodan Jovanovic.
�The ones who were kidnapped didn�t even participate in the fighting; they
didn�t go there to kill but to pull out technical equipment after the Army
had already withdrawn. They were there in the line of duty carrying out the
tasks that they were sent there to do. If we are releasing allegedly
innocent Albanians, then our country must also do everything possible to
ensure that truly innocent Serbs are also released.�
* * *
[INSET: MAP OF KOSOVO SHOWING THE FOLLOWING MARKERS]
Istok - 160 [PRISONERS HELD]
Kosovska Mitrovica - 50
Klina - 130
Glogovac - 53
Suva Reka - 150
Pristina - 36
Malisevo - 90
Prizren - 64
Lipljan - 20
* * *
There are more than a hundred prisoner camps just in Kosovo, claim the
well-informed. Among them are Serbs, Roma (Gypsies), Albanians, Muslims...
Serbs are the most well-represented at about 70 percent.
Seven Serbs were imprisoned in the basement of the Afrodita Restaurant in
Pristina; 28 in the Driver�s Association building in Pristina; almost 50 in
the garages and boiler rooms behind the former Public Insurance building in
Kosovska Mitrovica; 150 in Vrelo, not far from Istok. And that�s not alone.
The list of locations where Shiptars are hiding prisoners also includes
Dragodan, Velanija, Vranjevac, Matican and other Pristina suburbs.
The prison camps are headed by Besim and Ethem Cheku (the brothers of KLA
commander Agim Cheku), Nuradin Ibisi, Fadilj Suljevic...
Among the kidnapped are 22 children. Some were abducted literally in front
The Serb woman interviewed by �Novosti�, despite five decades of a difficult
and exciting life �like in the movies�, is still attractive today. She has
her own family today, a daughter and granddaughter. Her telephones have been
wiretapped for a long time. She lives in between two cities and has no
intention of settling down. She is in the field around the clock, in touch
with everyone, Albanians and Americans... She is trying to get everything
from them that she can to help her own side. A few rare individuals, for the
sake of bygone days, are even willing to lend a helping hand themselves.
* * *
IMPRISONED IN PRISON CAMPS
The list of soldiers and reservists missing on the territory since the
arrival of KFOR who were confirmed to be still alive and who were seen
imprisoned by our source are the following:
1. Nebojsa Ivezic, son of Slobodan, of Prokuplje
2. Ivica Jovanovic, son of Slobodan, of Pancevo, born April 9, 1963
3. Predrag Ivkovic, son of Budimir, of Nis, born July 31, 1959
4. Zoran Markovic, son of Ilija, of Brus, born October 24, 1977
5. Miodrag Nikolic, son of Jovan, of Niska Banja, born October 14, 1957
6. Dragoljub Tanaskovic, son of Nikola
7. Dragisa Rasovic, son of Slavko, of the village of Stanci near Krusevac,
born March 4, 1962
8. Dejan Jezdic, son of Dobrivoje
9. Robert Kovac, son of Andras
10. Sinisa Izderic of Nova Pazova
11. Smiljko Milovanovic of the hamlet of Blace
Still unaccounted for are Dragan Bojic of Jagodina; Dragan Burdzic of
Kikinda; Dragan Bucalo of Prizren; and Mujo Belhim of Prizren. All were
soldiers or reservists who disappeared in Kosovo following the arrival of
Translated by S. Lazovic (May 3, 2001)
This article appeared in the print edition of �Novosti� only.
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