'Severe' NATO airstrikes pound Yugoslavia for second night
March 25, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO bombs and cruise missiles hammered Yugoslavia for a second straight night Thursday, blasting air defenses and army barracks with airstrikes the Pentagon described as "severe."
At least 20 cruise missiles were launched from U.S. warships in the Adriatic Sea at about 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EST). Dozens of NATO jets took off from air bases along the Italian coast.
Pentagon sources said the new strikes were primarily being carried out by aircraft, including U.S. F-117A stealth fighters. There were also indications a pair of B-2 stealth bombers would take part in this second wave.
"It will be another substantive strike. It will be severe," said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon, announcing that military action had resumed. "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."
Witnesses in Belgrade saw a white light streaking across the sky, followed by an explosive flash on the ground about 5 kilometers (3 miles) west of the capital. Five or six detonations resounded shortly afterward.
Local radio reported that the suburb of Pancevo was the target of that attack. An aircraft factory there was damaged Wednesday.
Anti-aircraft fire erupted in western Yugoslavia near the Croatian border and planes were heard overhead, CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier reported from the region.
At 11:25 p.m. (5:25 p.m. EST), an "all-clear" siren sounded in Belgrade. But Yugoslav officials told residents to expect another air raid siren within the hour.
The Pentagon denied a report by Yugoslavia's official Tanjug news agency claiming that three NATO planes had been shot down.
"All NATO airplanes are accounted for," one Pentagon official said.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said there had been "no positive response" from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic following Wednesday night's strikes. "That's why the attack will continue," he said.
NATO attacked when it became clear that Serb leaders would not accept a U.S.-drafted Kosovo peace plan that would grant ethnic Albanians local autonomy but not independence. Belgrade has adamantly opposed a key provision of the plan: allowing 28,000 NATO-led peacekeepers into Kosovo to police the peace.
U.S. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said Thursday a Serb offensive against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo had "increased somewhat." He also said Serb forces had fired shells into neighboring Albania.
"There have been some further burnings of villages, further sweep operations, some shelling into Albania," Berger said.
U.S. intelligence officials told CNN that Serb troops appeared to be targeting prominent intellectuals in Kosovo, including lawyers and doctors. Among those on the Serbs' alleged "hit list" is one of the four ethnic Albanians who signed the Kosovo peace accord. He has gone into hiding.
Two prominent doctors have disappeared, the sources said.
'A very terrible day' for Yugoslavia
Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic said his country had severed diplomatic ties with the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
"This is a very terrible day in my life," Draskovic told CNN. "We are the nation of dreams, but never we dreamed about the possibility Americans -- our war allies from the First and the Second World War -- could bomb Serbia as allies of Albanian terrorists."
The official Tanjug news agency reported that Milosevic met with top Yugoslav officials Thursday to discuss the airstrikes, calling them "a grave crime against the people" of Yugoslavia.
NATO commanders warned Milosevic there was "no sanctuary" for himself or his military.
"We will systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately -- unless President Milosevic complies with the (peace) demands of the international community -- destroy these forces and their facilities and support," NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Wesley Clark said earlier Thursday.
Assessing the mission's first wave of attacks, launched Wednesday, Clark said NATO had hit 40 ground targets and destroyed three Yugoslav Air Force planes.
The Yugoslav government said Thursday that at least 10 civilians were killed and more than 60 wounded in the NATO attacks.
U.S. President Bill Clinton repeated Thursday that Milosevic had to choose between peace or war.
"He has to choose peace, or we have to limit his ability to make war," Clinton said.
Correspondents Tom Mintier, Martin Savidge, Jim Bittermann and David Ensor contributed to this report.
U.S.: Milosevic won't budge
Independent Yugoslav radio station B92
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