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World - Europe

Pentagon: U.S. soldiers' capture not stopping NATO bombing missions

captured soldiers
Staff Sgts. Andrew Ramirez and Christopher Stone and Spc. Steven M. Gonzales had gone to Macedonia on a U.N. peacekeeping mission

Pentagon account of final radio transmissions of the three soldiers captured by Yugoslav forces:

Wednesday: UNIT #1: "We are under fire."
UNIT #2: "You're not bullshitting us, are you?"
UNIT #1: "No, we are under fire. We are surrounded."
End of transmission
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CNN's Brent Sadler reports Belgrade says the captured U.S. servicemen are not prisoners of war-- April 1.
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At the daily morning NATO news conference April 1, Supreme Commander Wesley Clark commented on the capture of 3 U.S. soldiers
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Serbian TV reports a civilian bridge was destroyed by NATO. Watch video of fighting around the bridge April 1.
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Watch the April 1 Serbian TV announcement of the capture of three U.S. soldiers
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In defense of hallowed ground: The Serbs and Kosovo
Kosovo exodus reminiscent of WWII

Milosevic meeting with ethnic Albanian leader draws rebel outrage

Clinton: 'No basis' for Serbs to hold 3 U.S. soldiers

Crisis in Kosovo
 NATO Maps
April 1
NATO says it's doing 'right thing' in Yugoslavia

March 21
NATO military targets

Ethnic Cleansing

April 1, 1999
Web posted at: 8:10 p.m. EST (0110 GMT)

In this story:

NATO warns Serbs about captive soldiers' treatment

Pentagon: Geneva Conventions cover all hostilities

Yugoslavia: Captured soldiers face military trial

NATO: Committed to stopping 'criminal war machine'

Bridge destroyed in Novi Sad


BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO said Thursday it is doing the "right thing" in its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia and that airstrikes had inflicted "substantial damage to instruments of oppression."

The Pentagon said the capture of three U.S. soldiers had not stopped planned bombing runs.

"We did attack a Yugoslav army unit in central Kosovo that's been involved in some of the ethnic cleansing activities," said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. "We also attacked a major ammunition dump in Kosovo."

At a briefing late Thursday afternoon, Bacon also announced 13 additional F-117A stealth fighters will soon leave Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and fly to Italy to participate in NATO's Operation Allied Force. One is to replace the warplane downed last week.

"That will bring our total of stealth fighters up to 24 in the theater, and our total number of aircraft up to about 220," Bacon said.

He also said A-10s -- awkward-looking planes dubbed "wart hogs" and "tank killers" -- were being flown but did not know if they had fired weapons yet.

Bacon said he hadn't heard reports that U.S. forces were running short of jet fuel in Europe, but he said the fuel was easy to buy.

NATO warns Serbs about captive soldiers' treatment

NATO leaders expressed concern about the safety of the three captive U.S. soldiers shown on Serbian television earlier in the day.

"We've seen their pictures, and we don't like it. We don't like the way they are treated. We have a long memory about these kinds of things," said NATO's supreme allied commander, Gen. Wesley Clark.

He said NATO will hold Serbian authorities accountable for the soldiers' treatment and is investigating where the soldiers were captured.

Pentagon: Geneva Conventions cover all hostilities

The Pentagon said the captive U.S. soldiers are prisoners of war and therefore should be covered by the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

But the Pentagon spokesman denied that claiming prisoner-of-war status for the U.S. soldiers meant the United States acknowledged it was at war with Yugoslavia.

"By international law, the Geneva Convention applies to all periods of hostilities," Bacon said.

He said the three soldiers had been armed with M-16 rifles, but it was not clear whether they had fired any rounds when they came under fire.

The Pentagon is trying to determine exactly where along the Macedonia/Yugoslavia border the three men were surrounded and captured.

Bacon said the soldiers were part of a three-Humvee patrol.

"These soldiers from the First Infantry Division first went to Macedonia to participate in a United Nations mission called UNPREDP, the U.N. Preventative Deployment, which was protecting Macedonia," Bacon said.

Geneva Convention of 1949

Its prisoner-of-war provisions include:

  • Prisoners must be kept in a place where their lives are not at risk.

  • They are required only to give their name, rank, serial number and date of birth and may not be coerced into giving other information.

  • They cannot be put on trial.

  • They must be protected against insults and public curiosity.

  • They may be imprisoned until the end of the conflict, but must be released immediately when it ends.

    Text of: Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
  • When that mission expired, Bacon said, the soldiers stayed behind to protect U.S. infrastructure at Camp Able Sentry at the Skopje airport, which would have been a staging area had U.N. peacekeepers been sent into Kosovo.

    The soldiers were helping 1,500 U.N. troops from various nations withdraw from Macedonia.

    Yugoslavia: Captured soldiers face military trial

    Yugoslavia said they were "captured on Serb territory" and "resisted arrest." The Belgrade-based news agency Tanjug said a military court will begin an investigation of the three American soldiers who, according to British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, were seized in a "snatch" operation in Macedonian territory.

    U.S. President Bill Clinton on Thursday repeated NATO's position and said the United States, too, would hold Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic responsible for the safety of the three American soldiers.

    "President Milosevic should make no mistake," Clinton said. "We will hold him and his government responsible for their safety and for their well-being."

    A senior U.S. official told CNN the United States had relayed through Sweden its demands that Yugoslavia treat the captured U.S. troops humanely and allow international medical personnel and others to visit the men immediately.

    NATO: Committed to stopping 'criminal war machine'

    NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said NATO remains committed to stopping Milosevic's "criminal war machine" in Kosovo.

    "It is the right thing to do, and it is our duty to do whatever we can to stop the killings in Kosovo," he said during the NATO news conference.

    NATO airstrikes hit a major bridge across the Danube River in Novi Sad  

    "After one week of NATO air operations, I am confident that we are having an impact on Belgrade's war machine," he added.

    Clark said that in the past eight days of strikes, NATO significantly damaged Yugoslavia's military air defense systems, command and control centers, and field forces arrayed against ethnic Albanians. He referred to the targets as "instruments of oppression."

    He said NATO attacks on Serb military targets will continue unabated, "step by step, day by day, with precision and a great deal of attention to avoid civilian casualties."

    Bridge destroyed in Novi Sad

    The Pentagon acknowledged NATO planes struck one of two vital bridges in Novi Sad, the second-largest city in Yugoslavia, about 50 miles north of Belgrade.

    Bacon said the intention was to disrupt movements by the Yugoslav forces.

    "It is part of a plan to make force mobility more difficult, to interdict the flow of supplies and of forces," Bacon said.

    Serb media reported Thursday that NATO missiles had destroyed a major bridge over the Danube River in Novi Sad.

    State television aired pictures that it said showed remnants of the destroyed bridge, which connected two parts of the city.

    The television report said the attack badly damaged the city's water system.

    Serbian media also reported that NATO bombed the town of Uzice in western Serbia and the village of Gnijlane in Kosovo.

    The Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said 10 NATO missiles had struck targets around Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, on Wednesday night.

    Correspondent Brent Sadler contributed to this report.

    Concerned about captive U.S. soldiers
    April 1, 1999
    Three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslav army
    April 1, 1999
    NATO confirms U.S. soldiers captured, Serbian TV shows men bruised and bleeding
    April 1, 1999
    NATO widens target list, seeks missing soldiers
    March 31, 1999
    U.S. denies it will support Kosovo independence
    March 31, 1999
    War crimes court announces indictment of Serb paramilitary leader
    March 31, 1999

    Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
      • Kosovo

      • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
          • Kesovo and Metohija facts
      • Serbia Ministry of Information
      • Serbia Now! News

      • Kosova Crisis Center
      • Kosovo - from

      • NATO official site
      • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
      • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
      • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
      • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
      • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

      • InterAction
      • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
      • International Committee of the Red Cross
      • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
      • Catholic Relief Services
      • Kosovo Relief
      • ReliefWeb: Home page

      • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
      • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
      • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

      • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
      • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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