Kosovo Leaders May Have Returned From the 'Dead'

Doubts about claims that the Serbs executed two Albanian political leaders may spell trouble for NATO.

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What may turn out to be good news for the Kosovar Albanians would be bad news for NATO's p.r. credibility: On Monday NATO reported that two leading moderate ethnic Albanian politicians, Fehmi Agani and Baton Hadziu, had been executed the previous day by Serb forces; but the BBC reported Thursday that U.S. diplomats and Kosovar Albanian sources believe both men are still alive. If the report proves true, it would open NATO to criticism that it relies too heavily on partisan information from the Kosovo Liberation Army, which appears to have been the source of the execution claims.

"Plainly, your credibility is dented if people you said were dead show up alive three days later," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "Clearly there have been a lot of false reports in the confusion of the first week's bombing." For example, KLA sources told German TV on Tuesday that Pristina's football stadium had been turned into a concentration camp holding 100,000 people. "Then a group of journalists went there and found that the stadium was not full of people, either dead or alive," says Thompson. But this is war, and the truth seldom makes it through without at least a few flesh wounds.

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