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Crisis in Yugoslavia

Land Mines: Latest 'Weapon of Terror'

May 23, 1999|T. CHRISTIAN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Her 18-year-old son was carrying her 3-year-old son, Liridon, in his arms in front of her. Fragments from the blast cut through the older boy's hand and into her younger son's back.

At Skopje hospital recently, a nurse held up an X-ray to show the damage. Lodged between Liridon's hip bone and his lowest rib were two chunks, one a quarter-inch long, another an inch.

Hajdarovic said Liridon is often terrified. As she pointed to the scar on the boy's back, he began to cry.

Despite the dangers of the mines, there is little anyone can do.

Blyth, the OSCE spokesman, said "civilized" countries mark their minefields with signs of a skull and crossbones as a warning. Observers have seen no such signs posted by the Yugoslav army, he said.

The mines will pose a danger far into the future. If a U.N. or NATO peacekeeping force enters Yugoslavia, one of the conditions probably will be that all minefields are marked and identified, Blyth said.

Based on previous experience with Yugoslav forces laying mines during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, activists said they expect many civilian casualties from unknown or ill-marked minefields.

"There are still people [in Bosnia] being killed by land mines," said Vitagliano, the anti-mine activist. "It's going to be difficult for the refugees or peacekeeping forces to go" into Kosovo.

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