NATO: Oil refineries, key military targets hit
Reports: Kosovars forced into chain gangs
April 18, 1999
Yugoslavia now has no functioning crude oil refining capacity, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said, after the 25th day of NATO airstrikes hit oil refineries in Pancevo, outside Belgrade, and in Novi Sad.
NATO also said it has reports that Serb police are pressing ethnic Albanians in Kosovo into chain gangs to work in coal mines and dig mass graves for the victims of the Yugoslav government's campaign against ethnic Albanians in the province.
New waves of Kosovo refugees poured into neighboring Albania and Macedonia over the weekend, after they were pushed out of their villages by Serb forces, Shea said.
NATO pilots report "a hell of a lot of smoke" over Kosovo from burning towns, Shea said.
The Yugoslav media on Sunday reported NATO strikes in a number of other areas.
At Batajnica, 12 miles north of Belgrade, Serb television showed pictures of what it said was residential housing hit Saturday night local time. The report said a number of people were wounded including a 3-year-old girl.
British military officials estimated Sunday that Yugoslavia has about 40,000 troops in Kosovo, supported by 300 tanks, plus armored personnel carriers and artillery.
Those forces have been operating extensively in southern, central and western Kosovo, along the province's border with Albania, NATO reported.
"Evidence of ethnic cleansing and further atrocity is apparent through the area of Serb activity," said Brig. Gen. Giuseppe Marani, a NATO military spokesman.
Meanwhile, pockets of the ethnic Albanian rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army continue to fight Yugoslav forces in the province.
The KLA "may control little terrain now, but it retains a capacity to harass Yugoslav forces," Shea said.
Numerous refugees report that Serb police in Kosovo are forcing ethnic Albanian men to wear red jackets and work in grave digging chain gangs, Marani said.
"The use of these men in red to dig graves is supported by imagery evidence, which has already identified 40 mass graves in Kosovo," Marani said, referring to NATO aerial reconnaissance photos.
The largely Muslim ethnic Albanians are burying their dead pointed toward Islam's holy city of Mecca, Marani said.
"Despite being forced to do this gruesome task, the Albanians are clearly trying to bury the victims of (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic with respect," Marani said.
He also said Kosovar men and boys are being used to mine coal for a power plant outside Pristina, the provincial capital.
NATO estimated that as many as 200,000 refugees were heading for the borders of Albania and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia over the weekend.
Five ethnic Albanians were killed early Sunday when their vehicle hit a land mine in Kosovo, 20 meters before it would have crossed into Albania.
Andrea Angeli, a spokesman for international monitors, told CNN the accident occurred on the main road used by refugees coming into Albania.
The incident prompted officials to close the border crossing at Morina, Albania, where thousands of refugees have massed in the cold rain.
NATO spokesmen continued to face tough questions from reporters about last week's attack on a convoy near Djakovica.
Yugoslav authorities said that several NATO attacks on civilian convoys killed as many as 85 ethnic Albanians last Wednesday.
NATO admitted that one of its pilots had mistakenly dropped a bomb on a civilian vehicle near Djakovica. The alliance has fended off detailed questions about the incident, saying an investigation is continuing.
Adding to the confusion was a statement from the Pentagon on Saturday that NATO played an audiotape from a pilot not involved in the bombing of the civilian vehicle when it accepted blame for the incident.
Marani said NATO played the audiotape "to clarify what was the process, the procedure of a pilot involved in an action of that type."
NATO did not mean to imply that the pilot was involved in the hit on the civilian vehicle, he said.
NATO's commanding general, Wesley Clark, said Saturday that the truth may never be completely clear.
"I have sifted through the continuing reports of the incident and what happened that day. I am astonished by the fog (of confusion) and there's no way, without having been on the ground, to really determine what happened," Clark said.
Correspondents Ben Wedeman and Brent Sadler contributed to this report.
Five ethnic Albanians killed when vehicle hits land mine
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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