Accessed 21 April 1999
Department Seal Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo
Fact Sheet based on information from U.S. Government sources, released April 19, 1999

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Situation as of 16 April 1999

The Ethnic Cleansing of Kosovo

Reports of Serb war crimes in Kosovo-including the detention and summary execution of military-aged men, and the destruction of civilian housing-continued this week, despite the Serbs' declaration of a unilateral cease-fire on 6 April. We also have clear indications of the magnitude and intensity of the Serbian effort to displace the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo. At least 700,000 Kosovar Albanians have left the province since the Serb security crackdown that began in March of last year. Based on the scope and intensity of Serb activities throughout the province, at least an additional 700,000 Kosovars appear to be internally displaced persons (IDPs). Nearly 1.5 million ethnic Albanians -- three-fourths of the estimated 1998 population of the province -- have been forcibly expelled from their homes.

We have incontrovertible evidence that thousands of homes in at least 400 cities, towns, and villages have been damaged. We cannot confirm reports of starvation among IDPs in Kosovo, but presume there are pockets of deprivation, especially among those who have been in the hills for weeks. In addition, refugees are now reporting that Serb forces continue to harass them with grenades thrown from helicopters and bombs from fighter aircraft.

Kosovar Albanian refugees continue to report mass executions in at least 60 towns and villages throughout the province, and they have reported mass graves in Drenica, Kaaniku, Malisevo, Pusto Selo, Rezalla and the Pagarusa valley. We have confirmed the presence of a mass burial site at Pusto Selo and another north of Klina. According to a survivor who later filmed the scene, the ethnic Albanian residents of the village of Velika Krusa were removed from their homes at gunpoint, the men separated from their families, and the approximately one hundred adult males summarily executed at point-blank range. We cannot confirm reports of widespread executions, but refugee reports claim over 3,500 ethnic Albanian deaths as a result of Serbian executions. Accounts of both organized and individual Serb rape of ethnic Albanian women are being reported in increasing numbers by Kosovar refugees. According to refugees, Serb forces have conducted systematic rapes in Dakovica and at the Hotel Karagac in Pec.

Because the Serbs expelled international observers and most of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and journalists from the province, it has been difficult to obtain independent corroboration of many of the specific allegations of violations of international humanitarian law reported in Kosovo. Nonetheless, the overwhelmingly consistent nature of the thousands of reports from official observers across the border in Albania and Macedonia, from journalists and NGOs still in contact with their local staff in Kosovo, and from Kosovar Albanians themselves (both refugees and the Kosovo Liberation Army-KLA) paint an unambiguous picture of the scope and intensity of the campaign of ethnic cleansing the Serbs have waged in the province.

The following is a partial list of what appear to be war crimes or violations of international humanitarian law reported throughout Kosovo:

Forcible Displacement of Ethnic Albanian Civilians

The Serbs are conducting a campaign of forced population movement on a scale not seen in Europe since the Second World War. They appear to have driven the bulk of the ethnic Albanian population from their homes, even though many of them have not yet been forced out of Kosovo. Belgrade's claim that this unprecedented population outflow is the result of voluntary flight in fear of NATO airstrikes is absurd. Refugees consistently report being expelled from their homes by Serb forces at gunpoint, in contrast to the fighting last year, when the bulk of the IDPs and refugees fled voluntarily to escape the crossfire or to avoid reprisals by Serb security forces.

In contrast to last year, when Serb tactics in Kosovo were dominated by attacks by the security forces on small villages, Yugoslav Army units and armed civilians have now joined the police in systematically expelling ethnic Albanians at gunpoint from both villages and the larger towns of Kosovo. There are numerous reports from refugees and the press of Serb forces going house-to-house to rob the residents before looting and burning their homes. Despite expulsion from their homes at gunpoint, Serbian authorities have been forcing these refugees to sign disclaimers saying they left Kosovo of their own free will. Refugees also report that the Serb forces have been confiscating their documentation, including their national identity papers, and telling them to take a last look around because they will never return to Kosovo. Many of the places targeted had not been the scene of any previous fighting or KLA activity, which indicates that the Serb expulsions are not part of a legitimate security or counter-insurgency operation, but instead a plan to cleanse the province of its ethnic Albanian population.

At least 700,000 Kosovars have become refugees in Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Over three-fourths of these refugees have arrived since late March, with columns awaiting processing into Albanian and Macedonia reportedly stretching back nearly fifteen miles at their peak.

On 6 April, the Serbs began to force IDPs back from the border. Refugees claimed that security forces on 7 April laid mines at Morina, the main border crossing between Kosovo and Albania, to prevent refugees from crossing. The whereabouts and fate of the 700,000 or more IDPs in Kosovo is unknown.

Looting of Homes and Businesses

In addition to reports of Serbs looting their homes and businesses, Kosovar Albanian refugees claimed that Serb forces were robbing them of all their personal belongings before they crossed the borders.

Widespread Burning of Homes

Some 400 residential areas have been at least partially burned since late March, over 200 villages have been burned since 4 April. Most Serb homes and stores have remained intact, and Serb civilians in the town of Vucitrn painted a Cyrillic "S" on their doors so that Serb forces would not attack their homes by mistake. The destruction is much more extensive and thorough than occurred last summer. Many settlements are being totally destroyed in an apparent attempt to ensure that the ethnic Albanian population cannot return. Serb forces have reportedly burned all houses previously rented to the OSCE in Vucitrn, Stimlje, and Mitrovica.


Refugees have claimed that Serb forces are systematically separating military-aged men from the groups, and the vast majority of refugees crossing international borders out of Kosovo, especially into Albania, have been women and children. We are gravely concerned about the fate of the missing men. Their number ranges from a low of 100,000, looking only at the men missing from among refugee families in Albania, up to nearly 500,000, if reports of widespread separation of men among the IDPs within Kosovo are true.

The following locations within Kosovo have been reported as the sites of mass detention facilities:

  • General Jankovic: A cement factory in this town is reportedly being used as a detention center for 5,000 ethnic Albanians
  • Glogovac: The Ferro-Nickel factory in this town is reportedly being used as a detention center for a large number of Kosovars, and reportedly was used by the Serbs as a detention and execution site for ethnic Albanian men and boys during last year's security operation.
  • Pec: Serb forces reportedly used the soccer stadium as a detention center.
  • Srbica: The press and refugees report that as many as 20,000 ethnic Albanians -- including women and children -- were force-marched from the town of Cirez to Srbica as human shields for Serb tanks before being detained in a munitions factory.
  • Vucitrn: An unknown number of Albanians were reportedly herded into a school here.

Summary Executions

Refugees have provided accounts of summary executions in at least 60 towns and villages throughout Kosovo. Mass executions continue to be reported by Kosovar Albanian refugees from throughout the province, and they have spoken of mass graves in Drenica, Kaaniku, Rezalla, Malisevo, Pusto Selo, and the Pagarusa valley. Approximately 150 bodies reportedly were discovered in Drenica and 34 in Malisevo. Serb security forces reportedly locked an entire family into a house in a village in Drenica and burned them alive. Even with scanty media or outside government access to Kosovo, at least two reports -- the summary executions at Velika Krusa and Pusto Selo -- appear to have been corroborated. In addition to random executions, the Serbs appear to be targeting members of the Kosovar Albanian intelligentsia including lawyers, doctors, and political leaders.


Accounts of both organized and individual Serb rape of ethnic Albanian women are being reported in increasing numbers by Kosovar refugees. According to refugees, Serb forces have conducted systematic rapes in Dakovica and Pec. Ethnic Albanian women were reportedly separated from their families and sent to an army camp near Dakovica where they were repeatedly raped by Serb soldiers. In Pec, refugees allege that Serb forces rounded up young Albanian women and took them to the Hotel Karagac, where they are raped repeatedly. The commander of the local base reportedly uses a roster of soldiers' names to allow all of his troops an evening in the hotel. In addition to these two specific accounts, numerous refugees claim that during Serb raids in their villages, young women have been gang raped in homes and on the sides of roads.

There are probably many more incidents than have been reported because of the stigma attached to this offense in traditional Kosovar society.

Atrocities and War Crimes by Location

The following is a partial list of what appear to be war crimes or violations of international humanitarian law reported throughout Kosovo since late March 1999:

Acareva -- Serb forces reportedly burned this village in the Drenica region on 30 March.

Bela Cervka -- Serb forces reportedly killed 35 people, then dumped their bodies near the Bellaja River between the Rogova and Bela Cervka railroad. By March 28, Serb forces reportedly had killed as many as 500 civilians in this town.

Bruznic -- Serb forces reportedly burned down this village near Vucitrn last week, and a Kosovar Albanian refugee also claimed that Serb forces killed 100 ethnic Albanians there following the Rambouillet conference.

Cirez -- 20,000 Albanian Kosovars were reportedly used as human shields against NATO bombings.

Dakovica -- Serb civilian militia groups are active in the town and reportedly burned a building where a group of ethnic Albanians were taking cover during a NATO airstrike. In addition, over 100 ethnic Albanians were reportedly executed by MUP and paramilitary units in this city. Seventy bodies were reportedly found in two houses and 33 were found in a nearby river. The men are reportedly being separated from the women and children. All Albanian Kosovars remaining in the town were warned to leave by 29 March, and Serb forces began burning ethnic Albanian homes, shops, and markets. Serb snipers reportedly have taken up positions in downtown buildings. Nearly 14,000 refugees from Dakovica walked to the Albanian border crossing point at Prushit on 5 April.

General Jankovic -- Several Kosovar Albanian refugees claim that Serb security forces have detained as many as 5,000 ethnic Albanians in a cement factory in this border town.

Glodane -- A large concentration of Kosovar IDPs has been observed in this town under guard by Serb forces.

Glogovac -- The Albanian residential area has been burned, sending displaced persons into the Cicavica mountains. On 12 April, Serb forces reportedly executed 50 ethnic Albanian refugees as they were leaving town. Glogovac also reportedly houses a mass detention and execution center for Kosovar men.

Goden -- Serb forces executed 20 men, including schoolteachers, on 25 March before burning the village.

Gornje Obrinje -- A Kosovar Albanian refugee claimed that Serb forces executed 12 ethnic Albanians on 5 April.

Istok -- One thousand refugees from this town arrived at the border with Macedonia on 8 April. Some refugees said that an unknown number of people had died en route and others were turned back by Serb police near Raska and Novi Pazar.

Izbica -- Serb forces reportedly killed 270 ethnic Albanians since mid-March. Kosovar Albanian refugees reportedly saw bodies that appeared to have been tortured and burned.

Jovic -- Serb forces reportedly separated men from the columns of ethnic Albanian civilians, and a Kosovar Albanian refugee claimed that he saw 34 corpses in the town.

Kaaniku -- Kosovar Albanian refugees claim that Serb forces massacred 45 ethnic Albanians on 9 April and dumped their bodies in a mass grave.

Kacanik -- A Kosovar Albanian refugee claimed that as many as 300 masked VJ and MUP soldiers forcibly expelled the ethnic Albanian villagers towards Prizren.

Klina -- The expulsion of the entire ethnic Albanian population began on 28 March, with Serb forces removing the villagers from their homes and ordering them out of the country. Serb forces reportedly used 500 Kosovar Albanian men as human shields during fighting with KLA forces. A refugee who survived the fighting claimed that the men were robbed of their possessions and forced to strip naked and lie in a field for two hours while Serb artillery fired on nearby KLA positions.

Kosovo Polje -- Serb forces reportedly forced ethnic Albanians into their homes and then threw hand grenades inside. Other refugee reports claimed that ethnic Albanians were burned alive in their homes, and that on 28 March, Serb paramilitary forces killed at least 70 Kosovar Albanian civilians. In addition, refugees traveling from Pristina via trains report that Serb paramilitary units boarded the cars and stole all of their valuables.

Kosovska Mitrovica -- Serb forces have reportedly expelled all Kosovar Albanians from this city since 23 March. In addition, over 200 Albanian homes and shops have been torched, and Serb forces reportedly have killed prominent Albanian Kosovars. Latif Berisha, a poet and President of the Democratic Alliance of the Mitrovica Municipality, was executed in his home, and Agim Hajrizi, Chairman of the Assembly of the Independent Workers' Union, was murdered along with his mother and 12-year-old son. Serb forces reportedly looted Kosovar Albanian shops and burned Albanian homes around a barracks that was targeted by NATO air strikes in an apparent attempt to blame NATO for the damage. Serb forces reportedly were continuing to burn villages around this town as of 2 April.

A Kosovar Albanian refugee claimed that Serb forces separated young ethnic Albanian men from the general population, tied their hands together, and led them into the street. Although the refugee did not witness any mass executions, she did witness one VJ soldier shooting an ethnic Albanian while he sat in a car. A refugee from a nearby village claims to have witnessed Serb civilians executing a young ethnic Albanian boy. Serb forces reportedly burned villages around this town. The ethnic Albanians who were expelled from these villages remained in the Cicavica Mountains, east of the town.

Kotlina -- According to refugees from this town near Kacanik, 50-60 ethnic Albanian men remain missing. The rest were reportedly loaded onto trains and sent to Macedonia. Ethnic Albanians on 8 April discovered a mass grave suspected of containing the bodies of some 26 persons, according to refugee reports. The victims allegedly were murdered in mid-March by a Serb paramilitary group. The paramilitaries reportedly entered the town and separated the ethnic Albanian men from their families.

Kralan -- Kosovar Albanian refugees claim that Serb forces executed 100 ethnic Albanian civilians on 4 April.

Kuraz -- Serb forces reportedly killed 21 schoolteachers in this village near Srbica. Refugees also claim that as many as 200 ethnic Albanians were being detained there by Serb security forces as of 5 April.

Likovac -- Serb forces reportedly burned this village south of Srbica on 30 March.

Ljubenica -- Refugees reported on 8 April that Serb forces murdered at least 100 ethnic Albanians from this village in western Kosovo.

Malakrusa (Krusa-e-Vogel) -- One hundred twelve men were shot and their bodies burned in an apparent attempt to conceal the evidence, according to a wounded and burnt survivor of the executions.

Malisevo -- Serb forces reportedly razed most of the town and its surrounding villages. Refugees from the town claim to have witnessed Serb forces burning ethnic Albanians alive. Women refugees claim that Serb forces were separating men from the groups. Serb forces reportedly executed approximately 50 men in this town on 27 March. Part of the town was set on fire on 30 March. By 1 April the Serbs appeared to have completed their cleansing, and refugees report that the 50,000-140,000 IDPs in the Malisevo-Dulje area have been bombed and strafed by Serb aircraft and helicopters.

Morina -- Refugees claim that on 7 April Serb security forces laid mines at this main border post between Kosovo and Albania to prevent refugees from crossing

Negrovce -- According to refugee reports, Serb forces executed five ethnic Albanians on 5 April.

Orahovac -- Refugees reported that an unknown number of ethnic Albanian civilians were killed during the ethnic cleansing of the city. A group of Romas (gypsies) who arrived at the Albanian border on 8 April claimed they were expelled because Serb authorities said they were originally from Albania and not "true" Kosovars. The group also reported that Serb forces massacred some 50 ethnic Albanians, including women, children, and the elderly.

According to refugees, as many as 700 men were used as human shields last week. The ethnic Albanian men were forced to stand in front of tanks in the rain for two days with their hands tied behind their backs. A few of them eventually escaped by paying the soldiers 10,000 German marks.

Orlate -- According to refugees, this small village located on the crossroads between Pristina, Pec, and Malisevo was set on fire by Serbian forces on 30 March after some 200 ethnic Albanian men had been executed.

Pastasel -- The bodies of some 70 ethnic Albanians ranging in age from 14-50 were reportedly discovered by IDPs on 1 April. Serb authorities reportedly executed a survivor who sought medical treatment nearby.

Pec -- Serb forces may have expelled 50,000 Albanian Kosovars from Pec, and reportedly attacked a column of refugees leaving Pec on 6 April. At least 50 ethnic Albanians were killed and then buried in the yards of their homes on the evening of 27 March. On the same day, all ethnic Albanians were reportedly herded into a five-story building in the center of town. MUP forces then loaded them on buses and transported them out of the city. On 28 March, 200 ethnic Albanians who sought sanctuary in the Albanian Catholic Church of Pec were removed and forced out of town. To further terrorize ethnic Albanians, Serbs reportedly looted and burned their homes and shops throughout the town. Refugees claim that the indicted war criminal Zeljko Raznjatovic (aka "Arkan") was responsible for the atrocities.

Podujevo -- Serb security forces reportedly are continuing to burn villages east and southeast of this town as of 5 April. Serb forces may have executed 200 Kosovar Albanian men of military age. In addition, Serb reportedly were removing ethnic Albanians from their cars and shooting them on the spot. Ninety percent of the town reportedly has been burned.

Pristina -- Kosovar Albanian refugees were forcibly expelled first from their homes and then from Pristina via train. Several refugees claim that Serb soldiers used loudspeakers to warn ethnic Albanians to leave town or die. On 2 April, a Kosovar Albanian claims to have seen three truckloads of dead bodies accompanied by three or four armored vehicles in a graveyard in Pristina. Kosovar Albanian refugees continued to report being forcibly expelled from their homes and then from Pristina via train. Over 200,000 ethnic Albanians reportedly were detained pending transport. According to refugee reports, most of these IDPs were without food, water, medicine, or shelter.

Serb forces appear to have completed military operations in the city and were focusing on ethnically cleansing the IDP-swollen city as of 4 April. Male ethnic Albanians, including prominent human rights lawyer Bjram Kelmendi and his two sons, reportedly have been executed. Serb paramilitary units have burned and looted Albanian homes and stores throughout the city. Mixed Serb police and paramilitary units separated men from women and children, and Serbs have distributed pamphlets admonishing Kosovars to leave or be killed. Approximately 25,000 ethnic Albanians were sent by rail from Pristina to Macedonia on 1 April and over 200,000 reportedly were detained pending transport. Most of these IDPs reportedly were without food, water, medicine, or shelter.

The civilians reportedly were processed at the Pristina Sports Complex and then marched to the train station, however, Russian Ambassador to Yugoslavia Yuri Kotov visited the Pristina Stadium on 5 April and claimed that there was no truth to the reports that Serb forces were using the stadium as a detention center. Buses and large cargo trucks also were used to transport IDPs to within three to six miles of the border, where they were left to make their way out on foot. Refugees report that the ethnic Albanian neighborhoods of Pristina resemble a ghost town. Pristina police reportedly arrested as many as 20 former OSCE/KVM local employees, and authorities were said to have searched for any Kosovar Albanian who held an official government position, worked for an international organization, or worked with foreign journalists.

Prizren -- Serb forces reportedly executed 20 to 30 civilians and transported ethnic Albanians to the border. Serb paramilitary units operated freely throughout the town, according to refugee accounts. At the border, Serb forces confiscated all personal documentation, removed all license plates, and warned them never to return to Kosovo.

A Kosovar Albanian who traveled to Prizren for a funeral on 2 April reportedly witnessed ethnic Albanian civilians being forcibly evicted from their homes. The families were given two hours to vacate their property. The houses were then either set ablaze or used to shelter Serb forces. Another refugee from Prizren reportedly witnessed Serb forces burying numerous ethnic Albanian bodies and burning homes throughout the town. Many ethnic Albanians remain in hiding because they fear Serb reprisals.

Popovo -- Serbian aircraft reportedly bombed this village southwest of Podujevo, killing 10 ethnic Albanians.

Pusto Selo -- We have confirmed the presence of a mass burial site.

Rezalla -- Serb forces reportedly burned this village south of Srbica on 30 March. According to ethnic Albanian refugees, a mass grave containing 70 bodies was discovered on 14 April.

Rugovo -- Serb forces reportedly executed at least 50 ethnic Albanians.

Sojevo -- Serb snipers reportedly killed eight ethnic Albanians, and forcibly expelled the remaining villagers into a nearby field.

Srbica -- Serb forces reportedly emptied the town of its Kosovar inhabitants and executed 115 ethnic Albanian males over the age of 18. Twenty thousand prisoners are reportedly housed in an ammunition factory in town.

Stimlje -- Serb forces reportedly burned the headquarters of a human rights committee and the Democratic League of Kosovo. Serb forces also reportedly burned Kosovar Albanian homes, stores, and vehicles, and some 25,000 civilians were driven out of the city to villages to the south. In addition, the building housing the former OSCE mission reportedly was burned.

Suva Reka -- On 25 March, Serb forces reportedly massacred at least 30 Kosovar Albanians, most by burning them alive in their homes. By 28 March, Serb forces reportedly burned 60 percent of the town. A Kosovar Albanian refugee from the town claimed that Serb forces killed 40 men on 4 April, and dumped their bodies into two mass graves. Serb military and police forces reportedly killed as many as 350 ethnic Albanians in this town, and Suva Reka reportedly has been cleansed of its Albanian population.

According to Kosovar Albanian refugee reports, a group of Serb police and civilians killed and robbed the ethnic Albanian family living in a former OSCE office. The Serbs then reportedly burned their bodies.

Urosevac -- Serb forces reportedly forcibly expelled ethnic Albanian civilians from their homes on 10 April, and are now using the homes as barracks. Serbian police (MUP) transferred the civilians to Blace by train. Former Albanian shops and homes were reportedly given to Serb villagers. Serb forces reportedly are targeting the homes of prominent politicians and intellectuals and raping young Albanian girls. As many as 40 ethnic Albanians have been killed. According to an ethnic Albanian refugee, Serb paramilitary units are forcibly using Albanian males to dig defensive positions on the southeast side of the city. Nearly 50 paramilitary forced 25 civilians from the nearby town of Starosello to dig trenches for three days, from 10 to 12 April.

Varosh -- According to refugee reports, Serb paramilitary forces reportedly entered ethnic Albanian homes, forcibly expelled them at knife-point, and stole their belongings. They reportedly killed an unknown number of Kosovar Albanians and carried their bodies away.

Velika Hoca -- Two paramilitary units, Arkan's "Tigers" and the "White Eagles," are reportedly based in a housing complex in the town and control the area between Orahovac and Suva Reka.

Velika Krusa -- Reports from refugees in late March that Serb forces killed 150-160 Albanian Kosovars and dumped 50 bodies in a mass grave appear to be corroborated in a videotape shot by a survivor, who said about 100 had been shot and gave the names of two dozen of the victims. The BBC aired the refugee's video showing several dead bodies lying in ditches and in the streets. The refugee claimed that they were the bodies of young ethnic Albanians. According to the BBC reporter, all of the victims had single bullet wounds in the back of the head or neck. The refugee claimed that the men were shot after being separated from the women and children. A female refugee from the same village claimed that 40 men were executed by Serb forces. Some refugees allege that homes were set ablaze, burning to death over 60 Kosovars-including women and children. Police reportedly told residents of the nearby villages of Lashec, Kobanje, and Atmanxha that "as a gift, we will only kill ten of you," and then told the survivors to "go to NATO."

Vrsevac -- Unconfirmed reports claimed that Serb police used IDPs as human shields on 7 April.

Vucitrn -- Serb forces reportedly burned all houses previously rented by the OSCE and continue to loot Kosovar Albanian. Refugees from the town also claim that men were being separated from their groups. On 27 March, Serb forces reported killed four young Albanian Kosovars, including a 14-year-old girl. By 29 March, Serb forces had reportedly herded Albanian Kosovars into a school in the city, and refugees from the town claim that the men were being separated from their families.

Zhuri -- On 28 March, local police reportedly ordered all ethnic Albanians to leave town. As many as 7,000 Albanian Kosovars may have been displaced as a result.

Zulfaj -- Serb forces reportedly expelled all ethnic Albanians from this village, then burned it down.

Zym -- Serb forces reportedly burned this southern Kosovo town.

Refugees have reported that over 400 villages have been burned since late March, and we have confirmed that the following villages have been burned or mostly destroyed.

Bajcina Bajgora Banja Batlava
Bela Crvka Bradas Celina Crebnik
Crni Lug Dobr Do Donja Penduha Donja Lapistica
Donji Streoci Dumos Gajrak Gede
Godisnjak Gorane Gornja Zakut Gornje Pakistica
Gornji Crnobreg Gornji Streoci Jablanica Jovic
Kacandol Klincina Letance Lipovac
Luzane Mamusa Madare Mala Hoca
Malisevo Mirusa Neprebiste Novo Selo Begovo
Ostrozub Pakistica Pantina Pasoma
Radoste Randubrava Retimnje Rogovo
Skorosnik Slatina Smac Sopnic
Stanica Donje- Suvi Do Vlaski Drenovac Vucitrn
Ljupce Vujitun Zrze  
Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 21/04/99
ęS D Stein
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