Children reported killed when NATO bomb missed target
An emergency worker removes a victim from the remnants of a house in Surdulica
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April 28, 1999
Web posted at: 5:51 a.m. EDT (0951 GMT)
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- A stray NATO bomb is believed to have killed at least 16 civilians, including 11 children, in the southern Serbian village of Surdulica.
NATO on Wednesday admitted one of its bombs missed its target and hit a residential area.
CNN's Alessio Vinci was taken to the village, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Belgrade, by Yugoslav military officials late Tuesday. The attack reportedly took place about midday Tuesday local time (6 a.m. EDT).
Vinci reported that although NATO claimed only one of its bombs was off target, residents claimed to have witnessed many more.
"I heard two explosions far away, then the bombing started. All in all I heard ten explosions. After I heard the planes going away, I ran out to see what happened. I was the first one here. It was horrible, there were body parts all around," one resident said.
Journalists escorted by the Yugoslav army saw evidence of extensive damage in two separate locations. At least four homes were leveled and personal belongings were scattered all around.
"We pulled the first bodies with our hands but it was difficult because three floors collapsed. We hospitalized the wounded immediately, the rest, we pulled them out dead," a rescue worker told CNN.
Surdulica Mayor Miroljub Stoiljkovic said he could not understand the attack. "An army barracks nearby was already attacked and destroyed on April 6 and the military depot is six kilometers away," he said.
Vinci's military escort refused requests to visit the barracks claiming previous NATO attacks had damaged the access road.
Just before this attack, Yugoslav officials in Belgrade released the latest casualty figures among the civilian population since the beginning of the war. They said more than 400 had been killed and more than 4,000 injured.
A NATO source told CNN late Tuesday that a U.S. F-15 fighter may have been responsible for the deaths in Surdulica when one of its 2,000-pound laser-guided bombs missed its target - - an army barracks -- by 500 yards.
NATO said the bomb went astray when smoke from a previous strike diffused the F-15's laser and muddled its guidance system.
In a statement, NATO said the alliance "does not target civilians, but we cannot exclude harm to civilians or to civilian property during our air operations over Yugoslavia."
Hundreds of homes were damaged
Several hours after releasing the statement, NATO confirmed a bomb had hit a residential area. More details are expected later Wednesday.
Vinci said local officials in Surdulica told him 16 NATO missiles hit the area Tuesday. He said several homes were razed to the ground and several hundred were damaged.
"We saw roofs collapsed, we saw holes in the walls, quite extensive damage to the civilian population," Vinci said.
Under military escort, Vinci also visited the local hospital and morgue where he counted 16 bodies which he believed included 11 children.
The Pentagon has had no official comment on the claims of civilian casualties.
In Belgrade early Wednesday, air raid sirens sounded and were followed by a series of explosions in the capital. It was not clear what may have been hit.
The state-run Tanjug news agency said "planes of the enemy NATO alliance, in a massive onslaught, bombed the wider regions of Belgrade," but gave no details.
The Beta news agency said NATO jets attacked military barracks in Belgrade's Topcider residential district, on the capital's southern edge. Residents of the nearby Dedinje district, where Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other senior officials live, said the explosions shattered windows in their homes.
Serb atrocities alleged
Scharping shows photos of a mass killing in Kosovo allegedly committed by Serbian police in January
Meanwhile, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping says he has evidence of Serb atrocities before the airstrikes began last month.
Scharping said a German member of an international observer mission took photographs of an early morning Serb police raid in January in the village of Rugova.
The photographs show about 15 corpses in what looks like a farmyard. The victims appear to be civilians.
"These pictures are evidence, the uniforms you can see here are the uniforms of the Serb special police that shows clearly that the army, special police and gangs as well as prisoners are involved in murders," Scharping said Tuesday.
Scharping said the observer turned the photos over earlier this month and is in counseling to deal with the shock of what he'd seen.
Red Cross visits captured U.S. soldiers
Earlier, Yugoslavia allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit three U.S. service members captured near the Macedonia border March 31. The ICRC initially met with the three Monday, but were not allowed a private meeting.
On Tuesday, the private meeting -- required under the Geneva Conventions -- was allowed, and a doctor was also permitted to examine the three.
Spokeswoman Suzanne Berger said that Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone, Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez and Spc. Steven Gonzales were in "satisfactory condition."
Russia demands end of bombing to launch peace talks
In Moscow, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott met with Russian peace envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to determine if Russia has made any progress in brokering a settlement to the five-week-old air campaign.
Chernomyrdin, a former Russian prime minister, said NATO must halt its airstrikes to clear the way for talks, a condition rejected repeatedly by the alliance.
Chernomyrdin also said Belgrade would accept an "international presence" in Kosovo with Russia's participation but acknowledged that such a group, which would be unarmed or only lightly armed, fell far short of what NATO is demanding.
NATO has ordered Milosevic to pull his troops out of Kosovo, grant autonomy to the majority ethnic Albanian province and allow for the return of all refugees.
Milosevic has rejected the idea of an armed international force on Serb soil, and refuses to resume talks on the Kosovo issue until the NATO bombing campaign stops.
With Milosevic refusing to bend, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic began calling Sunday on Serb officials to "tell the truth" about the conflict.
"We cannot defeat NATO," he told CNN on Monday. "We have no right to have such ambitions."
Draskovic blamed NATO for the "aggression" against his "poor, innocent" country, however.
Some U.S. intelligence sources believe Draskovic is trying to position himself to succeed Milosevic. But other U.S. officials say Draskovic would have been silenced by now if he were not speaking with the blessing of the Yugoslav president.
NATO: Serbs demoralized
NATO's bombing campaign is working, and working well, said Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark in Brussels.
NATO struck again early Tuesday at the Yugoslav infrastructure, targeting oil distribution and supply facilities, army assembly areas and communications facilities.
The targets included a radio-television transmission array atop the former headquarters of Milosevic's ruling Socialist Party in Belgrade. It was the second time in less than a week that the building was hit.
"NATO's solidarity is growing stronger every day," Clark said. "Every day more resources are becoming available. The noose around Yugoslavia as it continues its inhumane policies in Kosovo is tightening."
But Yugoslavia charged that the NATO campaign is itself inhumane.
NATO has "concentrated primarily on civilian targets," Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said in a letter to the president of the U.N. Security Council. "NATO bombs dropped on the towns and villages to date have killed about a thousand civilians, including a great many children. A few thousand civilians have sustained injuries and will be crippled for life."
And, Jovanovic said, NATO's relentless bombing of oil and chemical facilities has "created an environmental disaster threatening almost the whole of Europe."
Clark, speaking at a NATO news briefing, said that NATO attacks are demoralizing the Yugoslav army and rendering Milosevic's forces ineffective.
"Essentially his air defense system is ineffective," he said. "When it's turned on, when it attempts to target us, it is destroyed. So what he has tried to do is conserve it by using it sparingly and when he uses it, we strike back and take it out."
U.N.: Oil embargo would hurt civilians first
NATO military officials on Tuesday discussed having allied warships block oil shipments to Yugoslavia by stopping and searching ships under threat of force.
But some allies have reservations about the move, which must be approved by all 19 NATO governments. On Monday, the European Union banned fuel shipments to Yugoslavia but left it to NATO to enforce any Adriatic Sea naval blockade.
U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Vieira de Mello told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that an oil embargo against Yugoslavia would hurt the civilian population before it had an impact on military forces who are the intended target.
"Clearly the civilian population would suffer," he said.
Briefing the council on what he called the "major humanitarian disaster" in and around Kosovo, Vieira de Mello said even without an oil embargo, reports indicate that most remaining fuel stocks in Yugoslavia are being diverted to the military.
Vieira de Mello said an embargo would also further restrict the ability of international humanitarian agencies to assist civilians in Yugoslavia. And he said it would make it nearly impossible to plant or harvest crops.
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Red Cross: Captured U.S. soldiers 'satisfactory'
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Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
Kesovo and Metohija facts
Serbia Ministry of Information
Serbia Now! News
Kosova Crisis Center
Kosovo - from Albanian.com
F-117s arrive at Aviano to support possible NATO operations
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
U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
Doctors of the World
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
ReliefWeb: Home page
The Jewish Agency for Israel
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
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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