Three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslav army
Serb TV shows servicemen bruised and bleeding
April 1, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Three U.S. army soldiers were held captive by the Yugoslav Army Thursday after it said the three men "were captured on Serb territory" and "resisted arrest."
Serb television showed pictures of the three men dressed in camouflage military fatigues. One of the men had several cuts on his face; another had a cut on his nose.
Serb television identified the men as James Stone, Andrew Ramirez and Steven Gonzales. The names could also be seen on their camouflage uniforms.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the three were part of the peacekeeping mission in Macedonia and were on a routine vehicle patrol "in fairly rugged terrain near Kumanovo when they reported they had come under fire."
"This morning we have seen the TV pictures indicating that these three soldiers had been captured by Yugoslav forces," he said.
Shea said NATO was still going through a "positive identification procedure" with regard to the three men pictured.
Shea said the men were in the region for peacekeeping purposes.
"First, all NATO forces in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia are there in the context of a peacekeeping mission. They pose absolutely no threat to Yugoslavia," said Shea.
"Second, any soldiers that happen under any circumstances to be captured by the Yugoslav armed forces must be treated in a humane way in accordance with international civilized norms of behavior. NATO fully expects this to happen."
A senior Yugoslav source told CNN correspondent Alessio Vinci in Belgrade that the men would be treated according to the Geneva Convention governing prisoners of war.
British Foreign Minister Robin Cook told a news conference in London Thursday that Serb television's broadcast of the three soldiers was illegal.
"We hold President Milosevic responsible for the safety of these three men," Cook said.
Cook said the use of the three soldiers in the television broadcast was a breach of the Geneva Convention governing treatment of prisoners.
He said the men had been used for propaganda purposes.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said the U.S. government has received "no official notification from the Yugoslav government" and would "withhold comment" until they received such notification.
Earlier, NATO troops, helicopters and a U.S. C-130 aircraft combed the rugged terrain near the Yugoslav-Macedonia border searching for the three. U.S. and NATO officials had stressed the three soldiers disappeared on the Macedonian side of the border.
Serb television said: "According to the Serb Army Corps in Pristina on March 31, three U.S. Army soldiers were captured on Serb territory. ... All three belonged to the 4th U.S. division based in Germany. During the capture, all three resisted arrest."
U.S. and NATO officials said they were in the process of notifying families about the developments.
NATO and U.S. officials earlier said the three from the 1st Infantry Division were traveling on a civilian road in a military Humvee, along with two other Humvees, during a patrol in Macedonia, just northwest of the town of Kumanovo.
At some point, the three Humvees split up. And around 2:30 p.m. local time Wednesday, the three soldiers reported by radio that they had "come under small arms fire" by unknown gunmen.
Shortly afterward, they reported being surrounded -- and radio contact was lost.
Officials would not comment on whether the three had any sort of tracking device on them when they disappeared.
CNN's Brent Sadler reported from Belgrade that there appeared to be a high degree of satisfaction among Yugoslav authorities over what appears to have been the capture of the soldiers.
Sadler reported he had been told further details on the men were unlikely to be released soon by Yugoslav officials.
The U.S. army troops were part of what used to be a U.N. peacekeeping mission charged with monitoring the border between Macedonia and Yugoslavia. When that mission ended in February, the troops remained as part of a NATO border force.
Meanwhile, Serb television broadcast footage of what was said to be a destroyed bridge over the Danube River at Novi Sad in Serbia's northern Voivodina province.
The attack reportedly took place soon after 5 a.m. local time (0300GMT), Tanjug news agency reported.
The bridge was said to link Novi Sad to the suburb of Petrovaradin to the northeast of the provincial capital. Earlier, Tanjug reported two "very strong" explosions in Novi Sad.
If the bridge was hit by a NATO airstrike, it would be the first target that was not specifically a military target, signifying a broadening of the military campaign to target infrastructure.
In Washington Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said the headquarters of Yugoslav special forces had been hit, the strike nearest to downtown Belgrade to date.
In addition, Bacon said that NATO aircraft had hit "several tanks" and other military vehicles in Kosovo. He would not identify the weapons used nor the number of vehicles hit, but said U.S. A-10 aircraft were not used.
British Air Commodore David Wilby said Serb military forces comprising three companies of soldiers continue to bombard refugees in the Pagarusa Valley with mortar and artillery shells.
He said overnight NATO aircraft had hit "a full range of targets" with no planes lost. And he confirmed that NATO planes were going after Serb ground forces but would give no details.
He said 30 Serb aircraft had now been destroyed.
"We've accomplished one hell of a lot," said Wilby. "His (Milosevic) air power is almost non-existent right now. He is hurting. We know he is short of fuel. I think you will see his resolve start cracking quickly," said Wilby.
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said the alliance remained determined to halt the killings of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and to damage the Serb "war machinery" in Yugoslavia as much as possible.
Solana told CNN the basic objectives had not changed. He said the aim of Operation Allied Force was to "damage as much as possible the machinery of war, and the destruction of the Serbian army and the military police."
"We are going to continue to damage as much as possible those units that are responsible for the criminal acts that have taken place in Kosovo," he said.
Yugoslavia's representative to the United Nations, Vladislav Jovanovic, said NATO was creating an "artificial humanitarian situation" and trying to broaden the organization's influence in the Balkans.
Speaking on CNN in response to Solana's statement, Jovanovic said Belgrade was merely cracking down on "terrorism," and he blamed the refugee crisis on NATO and the Kosovo Liberation Army.
"Albanian terrorists, in close cooperation with NATO, have told the people to escape from Kosovo in order to manufacture an artificial humanitarian situation," he said.
Tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians have fled to Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro in the past few days. Many of them told CNN of random executions by Serb army and paramilitary police units, looting, torching and forced expulsions.
The refugee exodus has triggered a massive international aid effort involving many Western nations and all major international humanitarian aid agencies.
NATO has accused the Yugoslav authorities of deliberate "identity elimination" of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
"The Yugoslav forces, so we are learning, are destroying the archives of the Kosovar people: property deeds, marriage licenses, birth certificates, financial and other records," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said at a news conference.
"This is a kind of Orwellian scenario of attempting to deprive a people of a sense of past and a sense of community on which it depends and to rewrite history," he said, comparing it to a vicious regime described in the novel "1984" by English author George Orwell.
In light of Yugoslav President continued crackdown in the Serb province, NATO said Wednesday the airstrikes against Serb military targets in Yugoslavia would be stepped up.
The alliance says it will stop its raids only if Milosevic accepts an international peace proposal, or NATO considers the Yugoslav military forces too weakened to continue their crackdown.
Meanwhile, dispatched a top Vatican official to meet Thursday in Belgrade with Milosevic.
The Vatican had also requested that hostilities cease out of respect for the upcoming Easter period. Catholic Easter will be celebrated this Sunday while the Orthodox Easter comes on April 11.
But NATO and the U.S. have vowed to press on through the religious period.
In an interview with the CBS network's 60 Minutes program, U.S. President Bill Clinton was firm that attacks would continue through Easter.
"I hate more the idea that we could walk away from this campaign while he (Milosevic) continues to clean out house after house ... and kill a lot of innocent people," Clinton said.
Time Daily - April 1, 1999: Refugees in Montenegro: Bad, and Getting Worse
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.