NATO strike hits bus; 34 civilians reportedly killed
May 1, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Yugoslavia charged that a NATO airstrike hit a bus Saturday near Luzane north of Pristina, killing at least 34 people, including 15 children, and injuring five.
The civilian death toll would represent one of the highest since NATO began its air assault against Yugoslavia more than one month ago.
NATO later released a statement saying an alliance warplane accidentally hit a bus crossing the Luzane bridge.
After the pilot had released his weapon, the bus drove onto the bridge, according to the statement from NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The NATO statement said the alliance "is not in a position to confirm civilian loss of life," and added that it "takes every precaution to avoid civilian casualties."
Serbian television reported there were as many as 60 or more casualties.
CNN's Alessio Vinci was taken to the scene and said the bus was split in half - one part left on the bridge the bus was crossing and a second part blown about 30 meters away.
"There are bodies all over here," said Vinci. "There are burned body parts ... The wreck of the bus is still smoldering." He said that as he walked around the scene, he could hear jets overhead and see bombing in the distance.
Vinci said he did not see any evidence that directly linked the incident to NATO missiles. He said there was no crater or evidence of a weapon.
However, a farmer told reporters that he heard jets overhead, followed by a loud explosion when the bus was hit.
The farmer said no Yugoslav military forces were in the area. The vehicle was a commuter bus carrying people from Nis to Pristina, said authorities.
More than 600 sorties were flown Friday night and Saturday morning, NATO officials said Saturday, marking the highest number since airstrikes began March 24.
Yugoslavian officials say NATO airstrikes have killed more than 1,000 civilians. Reports of other incidents include:
April 12 -- A NATO missile targeting a bridge strikes a passenger train in southeastern Serbia, killing at least 17.
April 14 -- Seventy-five ethnic Albanian refugees die in an attack on a convoy near the southwestern Kosovo town of Djakovica. NATO acknowledges a misfire "may have caused damage to a civilian vehicle and unintentional harm to civilian lives."
April 23 -- Sixteen employees of Serbian Television and Radio die in a NATO strike on its headquarters.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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