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World - Europe

Air raid sirens in Belgrade; Britain says Serb offensive wipes out Kosovo villages

Kosovo refugees
Thousands of refugees flee Kosovo as Serb forces escalate their battle against ethnic Albanians
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Watch video that NATO says shows targets being hit on day 2 of the strikes.
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InteractiveIMAGE GALLERY:
NATO strikes Yugoslavia: Day One

 MESSAGE BOARD
Crisis in Kosovo
 

March 27, 1999
Web posted at: 9:59 a.m. EST (1459 GMT)


In this story:

More fighting, death in Kosovo

Yugoslavia shows devastation footage

Russia not to be dragged in conflict

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



LONDON (CNN) -- An explosion was heard outside Belgrade Saturday evening as air raid sirens rang out in the Yugoslav capital, CNN's Brent Sadler reported, perhaps signifying a fourth day of NATO airstrikes is imminent. NATO officials said Saturday that alliance planes had carried out 249 sorties against targets in Yugoslavia since the strikes began Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Britain said on Saturday that Yugoslav forces had launched an "all-out offensive" against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, and that NATO airstrikes would now increasingly focus on command and control posts masterminding these "indiscriminate killings and burnings" by Yugoslav forces.

British Secretary of Defense George Robertson told a news conference on Saturday that, while three waves of NATO bombardments against Yugoslav military air defense targets had been successful, the campaign would continue relentlessly.

He accused Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of stepping up the crackdown against ethnic Albanians in the Serb province of Kosovo, where over 2,000 people have already been killed in the separatist conflict.

"We have heard that some villages do not exist," Robertson told a news conference, referring to reports from various sources about mounting repression.

"There are clear signs that an all-out offensive (against ethnic Albanians) has started," Robertson warned.

At the briefing, British Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Guthrie told journalists that NATO had severely damaged the Yugoslav armed forces' integrated air defense system.

He said that NATO had also begun to attack regional command and control centers of the Yugoslav army, including a key post in Kosovo. That command post, Guthrie said, had played a key role in the crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

"We know that their army has been badly rattled by this attack," Guthrie said, adding that the post was badly damaged Friday.

He also vowed that "we'll see this (NATO mission) through until the objective has been achieved."

NATO and major Western powers say the bombings will continue until Milosevic accepts an international interim peace plan for Kosovo -- or until NATO considers the Yugoslav armed forces so reduced by the bombings that they will not be able to carry on their attacks in Kosovo.

More fighting, death in Kosovo

The Albanian interior ministry said Saturday that Serb artillery had shelled several ethnic Albanian villages in Kosovo late on Friday night.

damage in Kosovo
Serbian TV aired video of damage wrought by the NATO action  

"The villages of Djakovica (district) are burning," the interior ministry said, quoting reports from its observers who can watch the neighboring territory of Kosovo from the Albanian mountains.

Robertson accused Yugoslav army forces and Serb special police of "killing and burning indiscriminately" in Kosovo, and there have been mounting, but unconfirmed, reports that dozens and dozens of ethnic Albanians have been slaughtered in the past few days.

Serb officials have accused the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army of having stepped up attacks on Serb forces in Kosovo.

Independent confirmation of the reports has become very difficult as international mediators pulled out in light of the mounting tension in Kosovo and international journalists were forced to evacuate.

There were also mounting fears that the conflict might spread, after NATO forces shot down two Yugoslav fighter aircraft over Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday.

Robertson warned Milosevic that such an escalation would trigger a firm response from NATO.

Yugoslavia shows devastation footage

NATO's third round of bombings, which started Friday, was extensive but somewhat hampered by bad weather.

Yugoslav state television showed pictures of explosions and fires in the suburbs of the capital Belgrade, caused by what the media reports called "NATO criminals."

The television reports said the night raids hit both military and civilian facilities, but gave few details.

Reports from Serbian media indicated that NATO again attacked targets all over Yugoslavia, including the region of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.

The raids ended shortly after midnight, although air raid sirens sounded in Belgrade later in the night.

A British military spokesman said further attacks were prevented by poor weather.

Russian protest
Organized by the Communist Party, over 5,000 people have gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to protest the NATO air strikes  

Russia not to be dragged in conflict

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on Saturday that Russia would not take actions that would risk sucking it into war.

"If anyone thinks Russia is going to get sucked in, they are deeply mistaken," Ivanov said at the start of an emergency session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, on the Yugoslav crisis.

Ivanov said Russia would consider asking the United Nations General Assembly to hold a special session to discuss the crisis if the NATO air strikes continue.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday voted down a Russian-sponsored resolution calling for a halt to the bombings.


RELATED STORIES:
Pentagon: 'We have made progress'
March 26, 1999
Greeks angered by NATO strikes clash with riot police
March 26, 1999
Security Council rejects Russian call to halt bombing
March 26, 1999
Russia expels NATO staff; Greece calls for bombing halt
March 26, 1999
Serb attacks reported on Kosovo villages
March 26, 1999
NATO: Yugo ground troops may be targeted
March 26, 1999
Serb government orders journalists expelled
March 26, 1999
Poll: Americans split on NATO airstrikes
March 25, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Kosovo from space (September 1997)
Independent Yugoslav radio station B92
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Facts
Kosova Crisis Center
NATO Official Homepage
Kosovo and Metohia
U.S. Navy
  • Photo of missile firing Wednesday
Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)
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