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  The Promise of Justice : Burning the Evidence  

Images of a Massacre | A Calculated Risk | Trepca
Bodies to Dust | "No One Would Dare Stop Us"
Milosevic's Hidden Hand? | Zahac's "Disappeared"
Blood Money | Revenge or Justice

"No One Would Dare Stop Us"

Some 1,200 to 1,500 bodies were destroyed at Trepca, according to the Serbian fighters who worked there and according to a well-placed Serbian intelligence officer. That figure represents around half the number of Albanians officially registered as missing during the war. The corpses came from gravesites and villages across Kosovo.

With western spy satellites and NATO jets prowling above, Branko said the operation called for stealth: "It was organized using refrigerator trucks, the smaller ones used for milk and ice-cream. You had to be mindful of being photographed by NATO, so we did it at night even if that meant working more slowly."

Men who drove in the convoy said some of the trucks had the Red Cross symbol painted on top to protect them from NATO attack. Serbian army and police sources said many of the trucks came from private firms in Kosovo and Serbia.

General Clark and other western officials said intelligence reports during the war noted suspicious truck movements from western and southern Kosovo northward toward Serbia, along a route that passes near Trepca. But General Clark said it was impossible to verify what the trucks were carrying or their ultimate destination. The fighters we interviewed refused to name specific locales where they collected bodies but they confirmed that many deliveries came from southern and western Kosovo, especially villages around Orahovac and Prizren; in the Drenica region; and around Pec.

To make sure the civilian trucks passed swiftly through military and police checkpoints, an elite, heavily armed secret-police division called the Unit for Special Operations escorted the deliveries.

Dusko took part in several of these operations. "There were checkpoints and roadblocks everywhere," he said, "but when our jeeps came along, no one would dare stop us and check what was in the trucks. That was important so we could move quickly and so ordinary Serbs, and regular soldiers, wouldn't find out."

But the need for manpower apparently compromised the secrecy of the operation, at least occasionally. Artillery units from the Yugoslav Army stood guard at Trepca and sometimes assisted in unloading bodies. Dusko and several other sources said the Special Operations Unit controlled most of the cleanup in the field and the destruction of the bodies in the blast furnace.

"You can't expect a regular soldier 18 or 19 years old to do this kind of work," he said. "It's a stressful thing to do. You wouldn't want regular Army guys exposed to this kind of thing. You didn't want them going home after the war and blabbing to their mothers or friends about what they did in Kosovo."

Next page: Milosevic's Hidden Hand?