Editor's note: The following are excerpts from interviews with Serb fighters who were active in Pec and surrounding villages up to June, 1999. The interviews were conducted in Montenegro in September, 1999, by Michael Montgomery and Stephen Smith of American RadioWorks. The first names are pseudonyms.
a Bosnian Serb who belonged to the militia gang Munja (Lightning)
I was recruited into Munja
by a member of the Serbian Radical Party in Belgrade. He provided us with weapons,
ammunition, satellite phones and walkie-talkies. That was the middle of March
1999, ten days before NATO began bombing.
We trained for three days
at a camp in Leskovac (Serbia). There were 20 in my unit, and most of the guys
came with war experience from Bosnia and other places. Three of them were former
members of the Yugoslav state security service in Croatia. Many of them were criminals.
The goal was to fight against
the KLA and to cleanse away their support. I am a Serbian patriot. I fought for
the Serbian cause. And also for the sake of money. Money was the main thing.
We heard that members of
the Serbian secret police were transporting Albanian civilians in the trunk of
their cars for $2,700. There were some members of my unit who would take the money
and just kill the guy. I didn't do such things. I took them to the border. When
the NATO bombing intensified, I started doing the same thing - taking the money
and killing them.
I don't care about Albanians.
They're shit. They have dirty children. But we were not killing children or raping
women. I mean, that's one of the biggest lies, about the rapes. Albanian women
are so dirty and ugly, how can we rape them?
A Yugoslav army officer -- Major
Radicevic -- was supplying us with food and ammunition. Every three days, the truck
would come with ammunition and food. And other things from the army-like travel
documents, to allow you to pass check points. We also had travel documents from
the police inspector at the training camp in Leskovac, Stojkovic.
(In one operation) we suspected
that in four houses in the village, there were members of the KLA. I opened mortar
fire on those houses and we entered the hamlet. When we arrived there were dead
people; five or six civilians, a couple KLA soldiers. Those who survived, they
fled to the forest. We were successful and didn't even need artillery support
from the army, like the other groups.
We grabbed two wounded guys
who we thought were from the KLA and killed them.
Our job was to cleanse the
village. Some other villagers were hiding in the forest, so we went there to pick
them up. There was this village elder, some old Albanian guy, who refused to leave.
I mean the guy was just pathetic. We ordered him to go to the border to Albania,
but he just refused. So we put a bullet in his forehead. The others were taken
to the border while we burned everything in that village. The whole village.
We'd hear about what was
happening to Serbs every day on the news. When you see that Nato is bombing the
center of a town or the television station in Belgrade, and every day friends,
comrades died, you don't care about the Albanians. Why would you? We lived off
revenge. Sweet revenge.
During the history of Serbian
nation, everybody has hated us. We suffered many casualties during the first world
war and the second. Our nation was always threatened...you have to strike back,
pay back that evil.
Back then revenge, felt
very good. Especially when we killed the KLA. That was back then. Now I can't
sleep, I can't eat. It hasn't lasted.
to a militia unit knows as the "Frenkies Boys"
We were a special unit of
the secret police. I got to Kosovo a few weeks before the NATO bombing. We expelled
Albanians from areas that had been the strongest bases for the fighters. Not to
exterminate them, but to drive the out for good. The least harmful thing that
happened in the war was when the army arrived and said you have two hours to get
out. Those were the lucky Albanians.
There were many Albanian
terrorists. We were outnumbered. And the most powerful armies of the world start
bombing you - it's a totally exceptional situation. Anything goes.
We were a special unit.
But the paramilitary groups - I call them gangs. Everything below us, the army
and the police, they were gangs. Nevertheless, there was some control. These groups
were all given their zones of operation. They were allowed to do what they wanted.
They were put into places intentionally and told to do what they wanted to get
the job done. It was their job to kill and rape and do what they liked.
I think a man who is prepared
to rape and mutilate civilians, someone who would attack a village just to massacre
civilians, whatever nation that man is from that person brings no honor to his
nation. I would liquidate them immediately. No courts, just executions.
a resident of Pec when he joined Munja (Lightning)
I was told when I joined
that our task would be ethnic cleansing - expelling people from their houses.
There were some other jobs, too, not just cleansing. We made arrests, mostly targeting
Albanian leaders, eliminating all those who supported the idea of an Independent
Kosovo. Not only KLA leaders, but influential Albanians, the intellectuals.
Our leaders would divide
us into small groups - usually three to five people. If the action was more serious,
we would use more men. Nejbosa Minic was the leader. His nickname was Mrtvi (The
Dead). We would get a list of names of people to arrest. If they resisted, we
killed them. Some Albaninans paid money, protection money. We knew who we should
move out and those we shouldn't.
Mrtvi and his people organized
everything. Also, the Serbian authorities in Pec - the national police and the
Mrtvi was extreme from the
beginning. He was a man on the edge, always. You can't measure that kind of a
man. He's a special case. He was full of hatred. He had done criminal activities
with them, the Albanians, and was tricked. So he was full of revenge. And he would
murder an entire family - a mother, brother or sister - just for that.
I think everything that
happened in Kosovo was pointless. Everyone has to live together. But Balkan people
are overflowing with hatred. Milosevic started all of this.
released from a Serbian prison to fight in Kosovo. He went to Pec in a unit of
the Serbian warlord Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan.
I have an ugly history with
Serbia. It's ugly. I don't like it there. I hate Serbia. I was in prison. I deserved
what I was sentenced for...I was almost two and a half years in prison. Nobody
likes war. But there were 50 of us who were offered to defend the state and in
return get our freedom from prison. Well, let me tell you, that for freedom we
would do just about anything.
Formally, Arkan didn't come
to prison. It was one of his men. He had a list of prisoners and their dossiers.
They had to be the right profile. All he asked was if you were ready to go, to
Kosovo...this wasn't a judge's, or a prison warden's decision. It was Arkan's. He
is the law in Serbia.
We had 35 guys, prisoners,
at one of Arkan's camp for seven days. I can't tell you where. At the camp there
was psychological training, target practice. A whole test. Those who failed went
back to prison, even though they had the right profile. We had instruction in
defensive tactics, offensive tactics.
I was pulled out of prison
before the bombardment. Then I went into Kosovo on April 1st.
Everyone knew there was
going to be a NATO air attack. They knew exactly when the air attacks would begin.
And when we would begin our work. Of course, ordinary people didn't know.
We headed in new jeeps to
Pec. Pec was the center of Kosovo. As soon as we arrived it was pretty heavily
damaged. Tougher than we thought...we had a special camp. I can't tell you where
it was. Every squad of 15 had a boss. Each unit had a specific task in Kosovo.
We would receive a list
of names. Bring this person in alive or dead. I was assigned to arrest people,
and had permission to kill them if necessary. You look at the guy, his attitude.
If there's attitude, you might just kill him. I mean, there's no point in taking
someone in who's just going to cause trouble. We had one guy, all filthy, probably
drugged up. I mean, who would want to deal with this guy? I put a bullet in his
head and the problem was finished. We had special demands for each job, but cold-bloodedness
was an important quality.
We didn't arrest just anyone.
My team, that is...but, of course, we arrested important people, political types,
functionaries. We didn't arrest people we weren't supposed to, but you know you
have crazy people everywhere. People who would rape everyone from Serbia to Albania.
We interacted a lot with
certain people at the MUP. There was a kind of crisis council, and some of the
information came from there. The lists came from all over, police, city authority,
because they had been collecting this kind of information for years. Who were
the rich ones, where they lived, who were the important ones, where they lived.
And we had local spies to
help us on operations. We would use locals from a particular village to guide
us, tell us where so-and-so lived, and they might get some money, if they were
Serbs. We also had Albanian spies and Gypsies, too.
My first operation was to
arrest a woman. I had five people with me. We had to shoot her, you can't imagine
how she was resisting. How it was. You know, they have these houses with high
walls...we had information that she worked for the KLA. We were told to arrest her.
So, it was a woman, and with women, you know that they are different. She resisted.
We were surprised. You know, a woman-35-who had the gall to resist. So we shot
her in the legs. And we handed her over. It wasn't any of my business what happened
to her. It's stupid to ask questions beyond my job.
Munja..and others. These
were cases of criminals and former police men who were looking for money. These
groups had the same directives as we did. Or at least similar. Munja was given
names of people, on lists, to liquidate, or arrest, and usually the others were
moved out. But Munja's main interest was in robbing people and in raping women.
They were a dirty group of men who had no qualms about killing women and children,
whether or not they were ordered to do it. They weren't disciplined like us. We
carried out orders, and we were not ordered to kill women and children. We killed
men, we killed those we were ordered to kill. That's the difference. We were professionals.
We were organized, had our
tasks and carried them out. We did what we were ordered to. Now, if I had been
ordered to kill women and children, I would have. But I wasn't. Men, yes. These
guys from Munja, I mean they would just go in and kill. It didn't matter women,
children. Except for the women they might want to rape them first. These are Serbs,
don't forget. This is Serbian style. It's not really war. It's total destruction.
That was the way cleansing
happened. I mean, you used the guys who were really hungry, full of lust, to go
into some of these places. And in return, like us, they got a chance to make money.
We were all, in a way, working for the same boss-Milosevic-it's just that some
people went about their jobs differently.
Minic was crazy, usually
on drugs. He wiped out an entire family right near the end. For no real reason
except some kind of stupid mistakes or something they made. I think the guy was
a butcher. Munja was just a bunch of crazy guys out for action, for money.
Sometimes we would go into
a place looking for certain people. If they weren't there we would move on, but
behind us would be the cleansers, these crazy guys like Minic. If we arrested
somebody, then the family might feel safe. But the others would come in and wipe
out the whole village. They were monsters, real monsters.
I don't have any regrets.
It was either us or them. I mean, look at what is happening now. But I'm not for
killing women and children. I'm a professional.
Zoran was an officer
in the secret police of the Serbian Interior Ministry
In September 1998, I went
to Pristina to help the Serbian Interior Ministry there, to help fight and destroy
the Albanian terrorists.
There were six of us in
our team. I won't call it a unit because it was smaller than that. We were under
the direct command of the Interior Ministry in Belgrade. The officer who was in
charge was talking directly to Belgrade.
Initially, we received orders
from the high command to provide some things for leaders of the paramilitary groups.
Mobile phones, radio links, satellite communications. They already had weapons
and ammo from the army. The communications were so they could be in direct contact
with the command in Pristina.
Almost all of Pec was a
paramilitary organization. It was shocking. Such a nice place before the war.
Pec was most important for these groups. But there were many paramilitary groups
founded either by political leaders or criminals. There was a group in Djakovica,
for example, formed by the army and a retired colonel. They went to places no
one else wanted to. There were Russian mercenaries fighting there in Djakovica,
too. They were in a unit called the Wasps.
The orders to move people
out were issued by the Interior Ministry in Belgrade, from the top. They were
directing refugees toward Albania and Macedonia, Montenegro. In order to have
a reason to keep the refugees out, they destroyed all documents. There'd then
be no grounds for returning, because they couldn't prove they were citizens of
We hit where the KLA was
strongest and had the most support, in western Kosovo. The population was more
loyal in Pristina and the east.
The evacuations had a double
benefit; not only were we cleansing the territory, but we were creating crises
in the other countries. It was a huge pressure on the economies there and was
creating conflicts there, too.
After the air strikes, we
were ordered to speed up the evacuations, the cleansing. Then it just continued
on its own course.
After two or three cases
where a lot of young army recruits were killed, they decided to replace them with
paramilitaries. Those guys had criminal records before, so to kill a man was not
a big obstacle to them.
in a Yugoslav Army special forces unit active throughout Kosovo.
The village was surrounded
by army and police units. Then the paramilitaries entered the village like wolves
attacking a flock of sheep... I saw them drag a teenage girl onto the street and
start hitting her with rifle butts. They just kept pounding her head until she
was dead and her brains spilled out onto the cement. They took the other women
off in their jeeps. God only knows what happened to them.
"Predrag" was a policeman in Pec. He joined a special police unit
in early 1998. He says he participated in the attack in Cuska on May 14, 1999.
When we got to Cuska I saw
that everything had been organized in advance. We werent supposed to use
any heavy weapons because of the threat of NATO attacks. Everything had to be
done quietlyGo, finish the job and come back as though nothing had happened.
We didnt do the main jobthat was the job of other unitsbut we
gave them support.
Everyone had their fixed
positions where they were supposed to hold. The Frenkies had its own, the Fog
(OPG) had its own, the Yugoslav Army its own
Fog went in first, or as we
called them, the men in black."
ARW : They wore black
Predrag: Yes. And
the KLA wore black, so that was one of Fogs advantages against the KLA.
They (Fog) went in first, to establish a bridge. We were on the wings
were on the left side. On the right side was Munja, the Pec boys. That was also
a special police unit. It wasnt paramilitary...We made a wedge, then widened
Fog usually went with 12
or 24 men
It was the same plan as was used at Racak.
ARW : The same commanders?
We had our own lists. And we were interested in men on those lists, men we could
get information from. You can assess according to their faces if they had been
fighters. If the skin is tanned from the sun, if hes skinny
mean he was out fighting. Or if his hands were swollen or dirty.
ARW : They could have
Predrag: At that
time there wasnt much farming.
Miodrag is in his early 20s. He joined the police reservists in Pec in fall,
1998. He says he participated in the May 14, 1999, attack on Cuska.
ARW : Why did you
Miodrag: I had nothing
to do. I had no job. And I was sick of the Albanians. I also wanted to avoid going
into the Army and I wanted to defend my country
Other cops used to pick
on me because I was so young. I remembered that one of my childhood idols had
saidtrample others in order to avoid being trampled yourself. One guy, another
policeman, kept calling me a punk. So I took out my gun, pointed it at his head
and said, maybe Im young, but behind this thing Im god. And
whoever is opposite me is an ant, even smaller than an ant.
The first time I killed
a man it was very difficult for me. That was before we started cleansing the villages.
We were patrolling a section of the road near Pec to prevent arms smuggling by
the KLA. I remember there was some station wagon, and inside a lot of Albanians.
If it were Serbs in the car, we just let them pass. If you saw Albanians you had
to draw your weapon and aim it at their heads. I approached the driver with a
colleague. He asked for the documents while I held my rifle at them. We told everyone
to get out of the car while we searched it. Then we ordered to driver to open
the trunk. We followed him to the back of the car. I was still pointing my gun
at him. As he was opening the trunk he jerked or something. My brain wasnt
controlling the situation and I opened fire. It was almost like the gun fired
itself. He fell in a puddle of blood. I turned away. I cant describe my
feeling. It was terrible. My colleague saw my face and asked what was up. I said,
I just killed a man. And he said: You didnt kill a man,
you killed an Albanian.
We received orders for Cuska
the night before the attack. We knew the planMunja, the Frenkies, other
It was a pretty routine operation. The village wasnt defended.
Or if the Albanians were defending Cuska it was through bribes. We basically walked
In Cuska, I moved on a house
with a friend, V. And there we hooked up with another comrade, K
into the house and there was an old man, an Albanian, inside. He was all alone,
smoking a pipe. We started searching the house but V started up with the old man.
The man pretended he didnt speak Serbian. Of course, V. was making fun of
the man, threatening him and the guy was completely petrified. V. kept provoking
him until the man said, in Serbian, Its easy for you because you are
armed and I am unarmed. So V took out a knife and threw it to the old man.
It hit his shoulder. V said now you are equal, now youre armed.
And then he just finished the old man off. Shot him in the head.
I know it must sound strange,
right now, drinking coffee and listening to the things that happened then. It
sounds awful. But youre different then, you enter a different world, a different
way of life. You get used to it when there is nonstop killing all around you.
One of your guys gets killed, and then its their people (the Albanians). Its
a completely different world, different laws, different morals
Today, I wouldnt
even step on an ant. Had anyone asked me (before the war) to kill people I would
have said, no way. Are you crazy? Thats only done by
never do it. But when you enter that realm, Im telling you, thats
the way it is.
In Kosovo, people werent
human beings. People lost their identities. They were only numbers. They wouldnt
say this person or that person died. Like you would in a traffic accident. It
was just a number10, or 20 or 100 killed.
ARW : Was it easier
to do those kinds of things when you were in a group of guys doing the same thing?
Miodrag: Yes, brother,
the group somehow carries you. Maybe alone you wouldnt do such things. But
the groups carries you along
When your countrys
defense is at stake you cant escape the reality of committing atrocities.
Sometimes I cant sleep and I just stare at the ceiling, thinking about these
things. The images dont go away. We havent preserved anything (in
Kosovo). The guys at the top screwed up everything. Serbian politicians screwed
us more than the Albanians.
Petar V. is in his late-20s.
He was in a special police commando unit in Serbia when he was sent to Pec in
fall, 1998. Upon arrival, Petar joined the militia gang Munja, or Lightening.
Petar says Munja was a special unit of the Serbian police.
He says he participated
in Cuska operation.
ARW : When you heard
the gunfire coming from the houses at Cuska, what did you think?
Petar V: It was an
ordinary thing. I assumed it would end this way because thats how it usually
happened in other operations.
ARW : And how do you
feel about this now?
Petar V: Im
trying to forget about it. Its not easy. Ive never spoken with anyone
else about this
Maybe at that moment, in Cuska, I was totally cold-blooded.
Later, when you think about it, over and over and over, it feels different. Every
man has emotions.
ARW : What did you
think about the Albanians at that moment, in Cuska?
Petar V: I saw them
as terrorists. Thats it. And our aim was to destroy them.
ARW : What happened
to the other members of you unit? Are you in contact?
Petar V: Theres
only eight or nine who survived the war
Im trying to run away from
all that. I want to leave that behind in Serbia
I feel awful. The people
in Serbia dont understand this at all
You dont know what its
like to have this stuff inside you, and not be able to talk about it.
ARW : What will you
Petar V: I dont
know. Ill try to get a new job. Ive left the police. I don think
Ill ever go back to that kind of work.
ARW : Will you go
back to Serbia?
Petar V: Its
easier here (in Montenegro). Serbia is a different story. Its isolated
people in Serbia dont have any idea about whats happened in Kosovo.
This isnt strange because of the media in Serbia
But you cant
understand it unless you see it. Its like the war in Bosnia.
ARW : Is it important
for Serbs to understand what happened?
Petar V: I think
the people need to know what happened in Kosovo. Then things might be different,
not like they are now. Serbia would probably then open up to the world. We wouldnt
be so isolated. Montenegro is different. Thats why I want to stay here.
Vaso is in his early 30s. He served in a special Yugoslav 3rd Army tactical
unit. He says he was ordered to take part in the attack on Cuska .
ARW : Was it unusual
for the men to be executed in Cuska?
Vaso: It was more
than unusual and yet it was so common. It was unusual in the sense that this isnt
what people are supposed to do, I mean killing unarmed men
But we went there
with one aim, to defeat the terrorists. It was out of patriotic reasons I went
to fight. And now I ask myself: Should I have been there? Was I delirious? Had
I known what I know today, maybe I wouldnt have gone. Again, when you live
through difficult trauma, its hard to figure things out. I walk the streets,
alone. I walk all day just thinking. Sometimes I find that I was right to go to
fight, other times I feel I was wrong. The pictures from all that are still with
me. I still see those innocent people dying. I see a fighter killing a woman in
front of her husband and her child. Its something I can never forget.
ARW : What did your
officers tell you about the war, about the Albanians?
Vaso: They always
held these classes during training and at other times. They would tell us what
the Albanians were doing to us, how many people the Albanians had killed. I dont
know if it was true but they talked in great detail. They would show us pictures
of mutilated bodies and talk about this village or that village where the Serbs
were killed or driven out by Albanian terrorists. I dont know if these were
true stories but we were blinded by them, by the whole campaign across Serbia.
The media was saying the same thing, just one thing. All day, you have one station,
one channel, one newscast, one source of information and you have your general,
and all of them are talking against the Albanians. You had no chance to like the
Albanians, to see them as human beings.
ARW : What would you
think if the Hague Tribunal ruled that what happened in Cuska was a war crime
and tried to punish the people responsible?
Vaso: Those people
should be punished. I agree. I think this was a mistaken policy. And Milosevic,
as the person who created this policy, should go to the Hague. I didnt know
what was going to happen when I went (to Kosovo). But they (Milosevics regime)
calculated everything that happened. He should be the first to go to the Hague
and theyll probably find others.
ARW : How do you feel
when you go to you hometown in Serbia and talk to people who support Milosevic,
who believe nothing bad happened in Kosovo?
Vaso: Its terrible.
I think its a catastrophe for anyone who thinks that way. I tried to explain
to people what I saw, what he (Milosevic) has done. I explained the failed policies
but I dont have the nerves or the patience to convince people. Ive
tried to tell people what I saw. But what am I to say to the person who doesnt
believe me...that hes crazy. Then, either hell kill me or Ill
ARW : What does you
family (in Serbia) think?
Vaso: My family thinks
the same way I do. It was my influence. They used to think like Milosevics
people. Now they think the complete opposite
Unfortunately, there are still
a lot of people who think the old way.
Dragan is in his mid-twenties.
As a member of a Serbian militia unit calling itself the "Czar Dusan"
brigade, Dragan says he participated in the massacre at Cuska, including the execution
of 10 Albanian men.
ARW : Did you feel
like you avenged your dead comrades (at Cuska)?
Dragan: It was a
temporary feeling, fleeting. You felt that the more Albanians you killed the more
glorious your revenge. But later I understood that I could kill all the Albanians
and it still wouldnt bring back my comrades.
I dont have much contact
with my unit. Weve scattered. Some have gone abroad, some here, some there
have difficult nights. I wake up at 4 oclock in the morning. I cant
sleep. So I walk and while Im walking I ask myself how this all happened,
and why. I ask whats going on inside me.
ARW : Why did you
decide to talk with us?
Dragan: I did it
because I thought it would give me some relief, like a confession. This is my