U.S. to resume Albanian evacuations
3 Marine companies on standby to help
March 14, 1997
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military's evacuation operations in Albania were set to resume at daybreak Saturday, with the possibility that more Marines will go ashore to help get Americans out of the strife-torn country.
Military operations were suspended Friday after a report that a U.S. helicopter had been fired upon with a shoulder-launched missile. A Marine commander overseeing the operation later discounted that report. Other pilots reported they were targeted by small arms fire from the ground.
In the reported missile incident, the pilot of one Marine helicopter gunship said he saw someone on the ground lift what appeared to be a weapon to his shoulder. The pilot then opened fire and left the area before any missile was fired.
At a Friday news conference at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs of Operations director, said one Marine rifle company had gone ashore in Albania. Three more companies were available to go ashore if needed, he said.
U.S. 6th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Steve Abbott was to arrive on an assault ship off the Albanian coast in the Adriatic Sea to assess the situation.
Military to alter flight routes
Pace said he believes the 200 Americans remaining in Albania can be evacuated in one day. American forces will alter flight routes and increase protective air cover to ensure the safety of the operation.
American officials have said that the military mission will end once the last American is out of Albania, but they have refused to rule out some future mission to restore order.
"I'm not opening any doors. I'm not closing any doors. What I'm saying is that we're watching it very closely," Defense Secretary William Cohen said. "Our sole motivation right now ... is to get the Americans out of there safely. Beyond that, there is no planning for a U.S. intervention."
Anti-American sentiment not the problem
American military officials believe that the problem in Albania is the general state of anarchy, not any particular animosity toward Americans.
"It's just that there is no control on the ground. People are firing weapons indiscriminately. And in that kind of environment, you want to make sure that the way you evacuate your people is as safe as possible," Pace said.
"This is not principally a military issue right now," Cohen. Said. "This is not principally a military issue right now. It's one of a violent, spasmodic reaction on the part of the people toward their government."
CNN military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.