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Saturday, June 26, 1999 Published at 03:31 GMT 04:31 UK

World: Europe

Kosovo refugees flood back

Many returning refugees are forced to find shelter in farm buildings

Thousands of Kosovo Albanian refugees are flooding back to their homes, putting pressure on international peacekeeping troops attempting to contain mounting revenge attacks against Serbs in the province.

Kosovo: Special Report
Nearly 50,000 refugees crossed into Kosovo on Thursday alone, and a similar number was expected to arrive on Friday, according to the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.

The refugees who returned on Thursday brought to more than 300,000 the number who have flooded back into the province from neighbouring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia in the past 10 days.

UNHCR spokeswoman Paula Ghedini described the influx as "one of the largest spontaneous returns that we have ever seen in the last 25 years of any operation".

The war in Kosovo
The refugees are returning despite appeals from aid workers to wait until troops have cleared landmines, booby traps and unexploded weapons in the province.

The UNHCR is now organising bus and lorry services for refugees still in camps in Macedonia and Albania who have no transport of their own.

Serbs flee

[ image: Serbs are fleeing Kosovo following attacks on their homes and property]
Serbs are fleeing Kosovo following attacks on their homes and property
Panicking Serbs have also been fleeing the town of Pec, accusing Kosovo Albanians of chasing them out.

Some of the 400 Serbs who took refuge at the town's Serbian orthodox monastery were also trying to leave, despite church leaders' efforts to persuade them to stay.

Reports said scores of Serbs sat in packed cars outside the monastery, waiting for a Nato escort into neighbouring Montenegro.

One Serb from Pec, Gavrilo Gojkovic, said Kosovo Liberation Army rebels pushed him from his home with guns and a knife at his back.

He said they told him: "This is Kosovo. You have no place here now."

Gypsies under siege

The province's gypsies are also reported to be coming under attack. A number of homes are said to have been burned and looted, including most of the gypsy quarter in Pec. There have also been reports of killings and abductions.

Thousands of gypsies are said to have fled the province, accused by Kosovo Albanians of supporting atrocities carried out by the Serbs. However relief organisations say this allegation must be treated with caution.

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