A veteran journalist’s firsthand exploration of the atrocities committed in Kosovo before and during the NATO campaign against Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia.
McAllester, who shared a 1997 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the crash of TWA Flight 800, pushes aside the headlines to reveal the human cost of the Serb-Albanian conflict. Pulled from his assignment in the Middle East to cover the Balkan war and chafing against travel restrictions, he decided to trek across the “Mountains of the Damned” to investigate wild rumors of atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the Kosovar city of Pec. His narrative begins there with Albanian butcher Isa Bala and his family, who are patiently waiting out both the NATO bombing and Serb occupation. McAllester juxtaposes their story with that of Nebojsa Minic, a petty criminal and ethnic Serb who persecutes Pec’s Albanians. His examination of these conflicting lives culminates in the chilling murder of Bala’s young family by Minic and his thugs as NATO ground troops approach. McAllester’s need to understand how such abhorrent actions occur leads him on a search of the Kosovar underworld for the motives that drove Minic to kill innocent children. He discovers that Bala was, like many Albanian businessmen, a minor collaborator with the municipal Serbian authorities; therefore, the murders were not just an expression of Serb-Albanian ethnic hatred, but also punishment for transgressions against the local black market profiteers. McAllester powerfully concludes that a sickening mixture of greed, ethnic hostility, and wartime nihilism has displaced the healing power of love and reconciliation for the foreseeable future.
One of the most thoughtful accounts of the conflict in Kosovo to date, conveyed with taut journalistic clarity that should ensure the book a broad range of readers. (12 b&w photos)