More blasts rock Belgrade
At least 25 cruise missiles launched from NATO ships
April 3, 1999
NOVI SAD, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- One and possibly two large explosions rocked Belgrade in the pre-dawn hours Sunday, lighting up the sky with a huge orange glow.
A Belgrade independent television station, Studio B, and Serbian TV reported that an industrial plant apparently had been damaged in a district of the city known as New Belgrade. The explosions took place about 4:30 a.m. Sunday Belgrade time (9:30 p.m. Saturday EST).
About 70 minutes earlier, five NATO ships in the Adriatic Sea volleyed at least 25 cruise missiles. CNN's Martin Savidge, who is aboard one of those ships, the USS Gonzalez, was told that at least some of the missiles were headed for Belgrade.
It was the second night in a row that explosions were heard and fires seen in the Yugoslav capital, as NATO follow through on a promise to take the air campaign to the heart of the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic. Early Saturday morning, NATO missiles destroyed the interior ministries of both Serbia and the Yugoslav federation, in the heart of the city.
At the Aviano Air Base in Italy, large fleets of NATO aircraft could be seen taking off beginning at sunset Saturday, more than during previous days of the NATO airstrikes. They included F-15s, F-16s, F-117A stealth fighters and support aircraft.
The blasts in New Belgrade came roughly nine hours after Yugoslav officials say a NATO cruise missile slammed into a major bridge over the Danube River in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia's second-largest city.
Eyewitnesses said rescue divers searched for one or two cars that may have been on the bridge when it was hit, and Serbian media said several people had been injured. But there was no official or independent confirmation of those reports.
The destruction of the bridge in Novi Sad means that two of the city's three bridges over the Danube have been hit. On Wednesday, a NATO missile crumbled another bridge into the Danube, blocking a major waterway from the interior of Europe to the Black Sea.
The city depends heavily on the bridges to carry not only traffic and commerce but also electric cables and water pipes from one side of the city to the other. After Saturday's attack, power went out in some parts of the city.
There were also reports that a bridge over the Danube at Backa Palanka, 48 kilometers (30 miles) west of Novi Sad, had been hit. That bridge links Serbia to Croatia.
The Pentagon announced Saturday that it would move the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its support ships into the Adriatic Sea by Monday to use against Yugoslavia. The ship carries 50 combat aircraft.
In addition, another 13 F-117A's are being deployed from their base in New Mexico to Europe for possible use in the campaign.
The first four F-117A's left Saturday night. One will go to Aviano to replace a plane downed over Yugoslavia a week ago, while the other 12 are destined for Spangdahlem, Germany. About 250 support personnel will be traveling to Germany by transport plane, according to U.S. Air Force officials.
Meanwhile, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, a new statement made Saturday about NATO's conditions for ending the bombing campaign led to some confusion.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said NATO's position is that the Yugoslav government must pull its military and police forces from Kosovo and let refugees return, escorted by a NATO-led international peacekeeping force, before airstrikes will stop.
This was interpreted in some quarters as signaling that NATO-led peace-enforcing troops might go into Kosovo before the Yugoslavs agree to a long-term peace deal as set out in the Rambouillet accord.
But while the Yugoslav government would not necessarily have to sign on to the Rambouillet peace agreement before airstrikes stop, Shea said, "NATO's ultimate objective is a political settlement based on the Rambouillet agreement."
NATO officials insisted later that Shea's comments did not signal a shift in policy, that NATO had not decided to prepare a ground offensive -- and that the Rambouillet accord was not dead.
British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said NATO officials "do want to see negotiations on the framework of Rambouillet, but I think we all have to recognize to some extent that the events of the last week have made it difficult to go back simply to those accords as they were."
Shea said NATO estimates that 765,000 ethnic Albanians have been forced from Kosovo, out of a total Albanian population of 1.8 million.
"At this rate, the Serb security forces would have more or less emptied Kosovo (of ethnic Albanians) in 10 to 20 days from now," Shea said.
The Kosovar Albanian refugees in Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania are staying in makeshift camps with no latrines and trying to keep warm and dry during intermittent rain showers and near-freezing nighttime temperatures. Some have scrambled and fought over scraps of bread.
Overwhelmed by the human tide, Macedonia closed its borders Saturday. U.S. President Bill Clinton appealed to the country's leaders to reconsider, promising that the United States and NATO would help as much as possible.
After seeing the damage done to the interior ministries Saturday, Yugoslavs reacted angrily and defiantly to the first direct attack on the center of Belgrade during 11 days of NATO bombing.
Those ministries control the country's special police forces, which compose a large part of government forces in Kosovo. Serbian officials termed the destruction a criminal act.
"Our determination to defend ourselves against foreign aggression is absolute," said Vladislav Jovanovic, the charge d'affaires at the Yugoslav mission to the United Nations, in an interview with CNN. "There is no amount of destruction which can change ... our determination."
Many Serbs on the streets of Belgrade wore bull's-eye targets, their new statement of courage.
At a briefing Saturday, Air Commodore David Wilby, a British member of NATO's staff, said that in addition to lobbing missiles into Belgrade, NATO took aim at Yugoslav troops inside Kosovo.
"We have moved our thinking process and striking process up to the heart of the matter," Wilby said.
Though bad weather hindered manned bombing missions, Wilby said NATO jets struck three staging areas for mechanized infantry along a road in southwestern Kosovo, as well as the headquarters of an intelligence unit and early-warning radar facilities.
"I can assure you we have put a lot of ordnance on targets despite the weather and are moving relentlessly until the end," he said. The attacks were carried out with no allied losses, Wilby said.
Television reports from Belgrade said there were no injuries from the raids on the ministries, indicating that NATO plans to avoid civilian casualties were successful, Wilby said.
Yugoslavia's federal government replaced several army commanders in Montenegro this week. "There is growing evidence that President Milosevic may be planning a coup against the existing, legitimate government," Wilby said.
On Saturday, fears of a Serb move on Montenegro led the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia to blow up part of a railway line that runs through Bosnian Serb territory into Yugoslavia.
The NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia, known as SFOR, said it would reopen the line "upon the cessation of current hostilities."
Montenegro's government has tried to declare the republic neutral in the conflict between Milosevic's government and NATO. But NATO bombs have fallen on targets in Montenegro, and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic has criticized both Milosevic's action and the NATO strikes.
"We are very closely watching for any movement of Serb military forces either within or towards Montenegro," Shea said. He declined to elaborate "for the time being."
Montenegrin political parties agree to resist military takeover
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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