Pentagon not reassured by Yugoslavs on captured troops
U.S. sends more warships, rations to Balkans
April 3, 1999
"We have heard some assurances from the Yugoslav government publicly that they're being well cared for," Navy Capt. Steve Pietropaoli said. "We didn't see much reassurance out of the pictures that were shown on TV of those soldiers."
Widely broadcast images from Serbian television of the soldiers, reportedly taken shortly after their capture near the Macedonia-Yugoslavia border Wednesday, show two of them with seriously bruised or cut faces.
Yugoslav foreign minister Zivadin Jovanovic said in a taped interview for CNN's "Larry King Live" Friday evening that the "American prisoners of war" are being "treated in a civilized manner."
Since announcing that the soldiers would face trial, Yugoslav authorities have remained tight-lipped about details of their capture.
The Tanjug news agency in Yugoslavia said Belgrade officials have begun collecting evidence for use in a criminal proceeding against the soldiers. Jovanovic refused to say whether they would face a trial.
"We've seen reports that they have begun an investigation, but I don't know what that means," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Friday. "We've seen reports that they will have a trial and other reports they have decided not to -- clearly that would be the right decision."
The Pentagon is trying to determine on which side of the border Yugoslav forces captured the servicemen.
All three are cavalry scouts for the U.S. Army deployed from their base in Germany to Macedonia as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
The Pentagon said Saturday the United States is sending additional military forces and some emergency aid to Kosovo refugees.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and its support ships will join U.S. and British fleets already in the Adriatic Sea for the NATO military campaign against Yugoslavia, said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon.
The Roosevelt, which carries 50 combat aircraft, is expected to arrive in the Adriatic by Monday.
The first four of 13 stealth F-117A fighters took off Saturday night for Europe to take part in NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
One will go to Aviano Air Base in Italy to replace an F-117 downed over Yugoslavia last weekend, the others to Spangdahlem, Germany.
U.S. Air Force officials said 250 support personnel will go to Germany by transport plane.
The NATO campaign against Yugoslavia, which refused to sign an internationally brokered peace accord with Kosovar Albanian rebels, entered its eleventh day Saturday.
Bacon said the United States would send 500,000 packages of rations, each package representing a day's supply of food for a refugee.
The first cargo plane carrying rations left Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Saturday, Bacon said. In addition, the U.S. military was preparing to ship tents, sleeping bags and cots.
A Marine unit will travel to Macedonia and Albania to assess the refugees' needs, and a massive C-5 cargo plane carrying loaders and forklifts will go to help distribute the aid, Bacon said.
Correspondents Charles Zewe and Ed Garsten contributed to this report.
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