August 30, 1995 -- 12:00 a.m. EDT
From State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst
and Correspondent John Holliman at the Pentagon
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO planes bombed rebel Serb positions near Sarajevo Wednesday morning in retaliation for Monday's deadly mortar attack on a Sarajevo market.
The Bosnian Serbs deny responsibility for the shelling but United Nations officials believe "without any reasonable doubt" the Bosnian Serbs carried out the attack.
The NATO forces involved in the strike include U.S. fighter planes from the U.S. Air Force base in Aviano, Italy. Jets from the USS Roosevelt, which arrived in the Adriatic Sea Tuesday, are also involved in the attack.
NATO planes are expected to target the national air defense system, which is controlled by Serbia, clearing the way for other aircraft to bomb further strategic military targets. The Serbian surface-to-air missile sites are numerous requiring extensive air power, according to one official.
President Clinton made a brief statement on the NATO operation from Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he is vacationing:
"I strongly support this operation," he said. "I think it is an appropriate response to the shelling of Sarajevo. It is consistent with the commitments that were made by the United Nations, by NATO and by the United States and its allies. I believe it is something that had to be done. Furthermore, I do not expect it to interrupt the peace mission ... United States-initiated peace activities will continue, and I hope they will be successful."
Pentagon plans initially called for three or four days of sustained bombing. It's not known whether those plans have been implemented or scaled back.
Sources say the Serbian targets and NATO's attacking forces were decided upon Tuesday during conversations between all parties, particularly NATO commander Adm. Leighton Smith and United Nations commander in Sarajevo Gen. Rupert Smith.
Planes were heard over Sarajevo at 1:55 a.m. (local time) followed by flashes and explosions, according to Reuters. The news service also reported the city of Sarajevo, which is almost without electricity, was darkened during the attacks.
CNN has been told that NATO officials in Naples, Italy, will give further details when results of air strikes are known.
The strikes were not entirely unexpected. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said Tuesday, "Everything you're hearing from us indicates that a military response is appropriate"
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