NATO launches fresh round of raids, Serbs say
NATO: Yugoslavia creating 'anti-humanitarian corridor'
April 19, 1999
BELGRADE (CNN) -- NATO launched late-night air raids across Yugoslavia on Monday, Serbian television reported, and paratroopers from the U.S. 82nd Airborne were being deployed to Albania to protect a fleet of 24 Apache tank-killing helicopters expected to arrive Tuesday.
By late Monday, Serbian television said a satellite ground station in Prilike, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Belgrade near the central Serb town of Ivanjica, was damaged.
Serbian TV said one person was killed and nine others injured in a strike on Nis, a city about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Belgrade that has come under heavy attack in NATO's Operation Allied Force. A tobacco industry plant suffered heavy damage there, and residential buildings and a factory warehouse were hit, Serb TV said.
There was a report of an attack on Mount Zlatibor near the town of Uzice, about 75 miles (121 kilometers) southwest of Belgrade. Strong detonations also were reported in Kragujevac, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Belgrade.
An air raid alert was in effect for Belgrade and several other cities in Serbia, Serbian TV said.
82nd Airborne heads to Albania
In the United States, Army officials said 300 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne were being deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to the Albanian capital Tirana to protect the Army Apache tank-killing helicopters, 24 of which were expected to arrive Tuesday if the weather holds.
Some of the 82nd Airborne were already in Tirana, but others were still in the process of leaving Fort Bragg, officials said. In addition, officials said, another 150 troops might be sent later.
In Washington, U.S. President Bill Clinton said he would ask Congress for roughly $6 billion to pay for the Kosovo campaign. He also spoke by telephone for 45 minutes with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and received renewed assurances that Moscow would not get involved militarily in the Kosovo conflict, an administration official said.
Earlier Monday, in its most complete explanation to date, a U.S. Air Force general told reporters in Brussels that NATO had probably struck civilian vehicles and killed civilians in two attacks against what pilots believed were military targets on April 14.
At NATO's daily briefing, spokesman Jamie Shea accused the Yugoslav army of opening an "anti-humanitarian" corridor in northern Kosovo, funneling refugees toward Pristina where they were being put on trains for the Macedonian border.
"We have increasing reports that forces are creating an anti- humanitarian corridor from the north to Pristina, funneling 150,000 refugees so that at Pristina they can be put on trains and sent south to Macedonia.
"This suggests that this is not random but is being done on an almost scientific and systematic basis," he said.
Border reported virtually closed
NATO officials said that 630,000 refugees have left Kosovo since late March. Officials from the United Nations said that in the last 72 hours, 45,000 refugees had crossed at Kukes, Albania, bringing the number of refugees in Albania to 360,000. In Macedonia, 132,000 refugees are in camps, and in Montenegro the total was 73,000.
On the Albanian border at Morina, CNN's Ben Wedeman reported only a few refugees had crossed Monday morning, indicating that the border area was essentially closed. CNN's Matthew Chance reported that the border crossings into Macedonia also appeared to be closed.
Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it appeared Yugoslav forces were turning refugees away from the border.
NATO: Yugoslav army presses offensive
Also Monday, NATO officials said there appeared to be renewed fighting by the Yugoslav army in western Kosovo against the Kosovo Liberation Army, as well as in the northern part of the region.
Shea said that the seven KLA headquarters in Kosovo had been dismantled and the organization appeared to have changed into a guerrilla operation "which is still able to harass" the Yugoslav army.
He said NATO was seeing troop movements across Kosovo toward the southwest to fight the KLA and that 8,000 additional Yugoslav troops had been sent to the region to join the 40,000 already deployed there.
Brig. Gen. Giuseppe Marani said that Yugoslav forces had increased helicopter and fixed wing flights in Kosovo but were unable to carry out any large operations because of their vulnerability to NATO aircraft.
Bad weather hampered attacks, Marani said, including delaying the arrival of 24 Apache helicopters to Albania. Pentagon officials said if the weather improves some of the Apaches will arrive Tuesday.
Asked about reports that petroleum shipments were reaching Yugoslavia through the port in Montenegro and via a pipeline from Bulgaria, Shea said 70 percent of the Yugoslav army's petroleum supplies had been destroyed, but said NATO is "aware" that some fuel supplies are reaching Yugoslavia and was planning action to cut those off "within the scope of our current operations."
State Department spokesman James Rubin said that the NATO allies were consulting on how to cut off imported petroleum supplies to Yugoslavia. He said how that would be done had not yet been decided.
Belgrade: Attacks causing environmental crisis
NATO's repeated pounding of oil refineries and chemical plants prompted Yugoslav officials to warn of an environmental crisis around Belgrade, CNN's Brent Sadler reported.
The officials said they were evacuating residents from around the Pancevo oil refinery that was bombed and set afire Saturday, sending a huge black cloud over Belgrade.
Officials also warned that they were trying to protect a container at a chemical processing plant in Baric, southwest of the city, that holds 180 tons of hydrochloric acid. Officials said they fear the container could release a toxic cloud that would threaten thousands of people if it were hit.
NATO revisits civilian-strike issue
Meanwhile, the controversy over whether NATO warplanes had hit civilian targets last week continued Monday.
But Leaf said in both cases the pilots believed they were striking military targets, adding, "I didn't say something went wrong. I don't agree there was a error."
However, Leaf said NATO could not say for certain what kinds of vehicles were hit and admitted, "It is possible there were civilian casualties at both locations."
Leaf said the evidence NATO has been able to gather suggests that in the first attack north of Djakovica, the vehicle struck was a "legitimate military target" because it was involved in the burning of homes. In the second attack, he said, evidence indicates military vehicles were in the convoy.
He added, though, "This is a very complicated scenario, and we will never be able to determine all of the exact details."
Yugoslavia has charged the attacks killed as many as 85 ethnic Albanian refugees.
Eight cities reported hit
On Monday, Serbian media reported attacks on eight Yugoslav cities overnight.
CNN's Alessio Vinci reported that around 2 a.m. Belgrade time, four large explosions could be heard in the suburb of Baric.
In addition, NATO bombs hit the regional government buildings in downtown Novi Sad, Yugoslavia's second largest city. Other cities reported hit included Kraljevo, Pristina, the regional capital of Kosovo, Paracin in central Serbia, Sremska Mitrovica, northwest of Belgrade, and Obrenovac, another Belgrade suburb.
On the diplomatic front, senior White House officials familiar with Clinton's conversation with Yeltsin described it as constructive and positive but absent of any significant breakthrough.
U.S. sources did say the administration was assured that Russia would not follow through on talk of sending warships into the Adriatic Sea.
Correspondents Brett Sadler, Ben Wedeman, Matthew Chance and Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.
NATO bombs hit several Yugoslav cities
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