Religious heritage of Kosovo 'left in ruins'

A Harvard specialist testifying yesterday at the trial of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic said a third of Muslim holy sites in Kosovo had been destroyed in the war.

Andras Riedlmayer, a cultural historian, said scores of mosques, Islamic libraries, theology schools and mausoleums were dynamited, shelled, hit with gunfire or set alight.

Mr Riedlmayer said he visited 140 sites in Kosovo after the conflict in the Serbian province ended in 1999, using the information for his study of holy places, The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Kosovo.

His report states: "In some cases, such attacks were accompanied by anti-Albanian or pro-Serb graffiti written on the mosque walls or inside the mihrab (prayer area) and vandalism directed at religious scripture."

Mr Riedlmayer said: "Our documentation showed that more than one-third were destroyed or damaged, and the evidence shows this happened in 1998-1999 during some kind of conflict. I will leave the conclusions to others."

He found no evidence was found that the bombing campaign by Nato had damaged any important architecture.

Mr Milosevic rejected the report as subjective, saying it had been written under Nato orders and he accused Mr Riedlmayer, an American, of bias.(AP)