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Pentagon says it did not intentionally manipulate Kosovo war tape

NATO insists that a U.S. F-15 crew had no chance to avoid bombing a passenger train that was hit by accident while crossing a bridge in Yugoslavia last April  

January 6, 2000
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EST (0410 GMT)

In this story:

'Not sufficient time' to divert missile

Controversy uncovered by German newspaper


By Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon says crew members aboard a U.S. fighter jet didn't see a moving civilian passenger train in time to avoid destroying it last April 13 during the war in Yugoslavia.

Now, the Pentagon admits that the video released after the attack, which was meant to demonstrate the quick appearance of the train, was sped up almost three times faster than normal time.

"The product was presented as the intelligence analyst normally would see it, and that is not a manipulation," said Pentagon spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports on revelations that videotape of a passenger train destroyed by a U.S. missile during the war in Yugoslavia was speeded up when it was shown to reporters. (January 6)
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Watch the original presentation of the video by the Pentagon, April 13.
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Rebuilding Kosovo

Defense Department officials said such videos often are digitally compressed for quick review.

'Not sufficient time' to divert missile

At the time, Yugoslav authorities said at least 10 people had been killed in the train attack and another 16 had been injured.

Pentagon officials have not released the original cockpit video of the attack. But CNN has slowed down the compressed version to simulate what the tape might look like at regular speed.

The F-15 fighter was using AGM-130s, a missile that the crew can actually steer through a camera in its nose. The crew had fired the missile at a bridge.

The simulation suggested that the officer who guided the bomb, with only a limited view of the TV target screen, had only three seconds at most to react to the oncoming train as it began crossing the bridge.

A videotape of the attack had been sped up, essentially fast-forwarding it at three times normal speed  

"There was not sufficient time, once that missile was launched, to divert it once they saw the train," Crowley said.

Controversy uncovered by German newspaper

U.S. Air Force officials became aware of the tape's fast speed months ago. But they only explained it after a German newspaper ran a story questioning NATO's account of the attack.

But the Pentagon adamantly insisted that the F-15 crew did nothing wrong and that the train tragedy was unavoidable.

Serbs demand better KFOR protection from Kosovo Albanians
December 26, 1999
NATO: Train attack 'unfortunate' but unavoidable
April 13, 1999
Yugoslav train hit during NATO strike; 10 dead
April 12, 1999

Focus on Kosovo
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Facts
NATO Official Homepage
Kosova Crisis Center
Serbia Info News / Front page
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