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Pentagon: Day 2 of NATO strikes will be severe

March 25, 1999
Web posted at: 6:12 p.m. EST (2312 GMT)

In this story:

Damage assessment not available

Possibility of NATO prisoners of war

Threat to U.S. troops in Bosnia

Yugoslav navy


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO warplanes took to the air Thursday for the second straight day to deliver a punishing message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that he must end his repression of Kosovo, the Pentagon said.

The new airstrikes were primarily being carried out by aircraft, including U.S. F-117 stealth fighters, according to an unidentified Pentagon source.

"It will be another substantive strike. It will be severe," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said.

Weather was not a terribly significant factor in Operation Allied Force, he said, but the weather looked "pretty good tonight."

"We will continue to focus on a variety of targets but principally on air defense targets and also on military targets in and around Kosovo, the types of assets that the Yugoslavs are using against the Kosovar Albanian people," Bacon said.

Bacon said 20 percent of the allied targets were VJ -- that is Yugoslav army targets -- or MUP -- ministerial special police targets.

"These are the forces that are being used to attack the Kosovar Albanians in Kosovo, and we will continue to focus on those targets," said Bacon.


In the first days of the NATO airstrikes, Correspondent Martin Savidge was aboard the USS Philippine Sea.

The guided missile cruiser is one of the U.S. Navy warships in the Adriatic Sea firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at military targets in Yugoslavia.

Watch and listen to his reports.

"They have fewer assets today than they had yesterday, yes. But I would be misleading you if I told you that they are not yet, that they are at a point where they can't continue their aggression or repression of the Kosovar Albanians," said Bacon.

"We have not degraded it to that point. But we're only in the second day," Bacon added.

Damage assessment not available

The Pentagon official repeatedly said he could not be more specific about targets in an ongoing strike. And Bacon said the scorecard on the first day of the military operation would take some time.

Battle damage assessment is a very complex process and "involves more than just looking at pictures on CNN," Bacon said at the afternoon briefing.

He was asked whether the Serbs were taking steps to protect their big guns and whether that made it difficult for NATO to locate targets.

"I think it is fair to say that things were in their expected position -- which was moved," Bacon said. "They have been moving their military assets, including tanks and artillery -- and other things. Dispersion is a standard defensive tactic, and the Serbs are very good at dispersion."

He said that is why it will not be easy for NATO to suppress the Serb air defense system.

"Sophisticated systems such as the SA-6 missile can be moved very easily. The Iraqis do that, and the Serbs do it as well," said Bacon.

He also said Serbs are not using another Iraqi military strategy to a "huge extent" -- that of moving endangered weapons into urban areas that NATO might hesitate to hit.

Possibility of NATO prisoners of war

NATO planes shot down three Yugoslav fighter jets during the first day of Operation Allied Force, NATO Gen. Wesley Clark said earlier. That drew questions from reporters about what would happen to U.S. pilots if they were shot down and fell into Serb hands.

"Any NATO personnel that were shot down and captured by Yugoslav forces would be entitled to all the protections offered by the Geneva Convention," Bacon said. "And they would be covered by the provisions that apply to prisoners of war, that govern the treatment of prisoners of war."

But he said the Pentagon would try to prevent any pilot from being captured.

"We have very robust, well-trained combat search and rescue teams available to search for them," Bacon said.

Threat to U.S. troops in Bosnia

Bacon also said steps have been taken to ensure the safety of U.S. troops serving in the peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"Force protection is the job of unit commanders in Bosnia and elsewhere, and they have the authority to take steps that they think are appropriate to match the threat they face," Bacon said.

He also said every soldier undergoes force protection training before being deployed to Bosnia.

"It's something that's on their mind every minute of the day when they're on duty and frequently when they're off duty as well," Bacon said.

Yugoslav navy

Bacon was asked about media reports that the Yugoslav navy was warned to stay in port or risk being sunk. He was asked what possible threat the tiny fleet could pose.

"Well, they have a mining capability. They have some on-deck armaments and other ways to wreak havoc with our ships," Bacon explained.

"And I think General Clark was very explicit that he had discussions with the Serb authorities about controlling the navy. And they apparently have honored those warnings," Bacon said.

U.S. military 'satisfied' with airstrikes
March 25, 1999
U.S. defense secretary: No indication of NATO casualties
March 24, 1999
KLA goes from splinter group to potential giant-killer
March 24, 1999
Operation Allied Force: Latest developments
March 24, 1999
Annan: U.N. should have been consulted
March 24, 1999

NATO Official Homepage
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)
US Department of Defense
Kosovo - Information Agency
Kosova Crisis Center
Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
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