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Operation Allied Force: Day One
March 25, 1999
Web posted at: 5:42 a.m. EST (1042 GMT)
(CNN) -- Air raid sirens sounded in Belgrade early Thursday, CNN has confirmed. NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia were
suspended shortly before dawn following 10 hours of attacks. The airstrikes were launched Wednesday evening against military targets, after Serbs refused to sign a Kosovo peace plan.
Here are the latest developments:
No official time frame for concluding the airstrikes has been announced. However, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said the operation could continue for "a few days."
Russia will not use "extreme measures" to counter NATO attacks, Russian officials said Thursday, CNN correspondent Steve Harrigan reports. Russia has said it strongly disapproves of NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia. Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov scuttled a trip to Washington on Tuesday after learning that NATO would attack Yugoslavia.
Gen. Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, will hold a military briefing at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday morning. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana may also be involved with the briefing.
"We are ready to fight against the aggressors," Goran Matic, Yugoslav Federal Minister said Thursday. He said that "the people of Yugoslavia are united in defending their country," though they seek a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis. Matic said at least 10 people died and more than 60 civilians were wounded in airstrikes by NATO. Those figures could not be independently confirmed.
Reports of civilian casualties from NATO airstrikes do not seem "particularly credible" said British Defense Secretary George Robertson. Such accounts are hard to verify, Robertson said, particularly in a country which has shut down press freedoms. While he is concerned about possible casualties, he said the NATO operation is necessary because the international community "will not stand by and watch the blood flowing" in Kosovo.
A senior defense official told CNN that NATO military strikes on Yugoslavia have been suspended for now and "all (NATO) planes are safe" and returning to their bases. Data gathering for bomb damage assessments is taking place Thursday, and strikes are expected to continue, said the official, who asked not to be named.
Correspondent Chris Burns reported that NATO tanks were patrolling the Yugoslav border in Macedonia early Thursday. Some military leaders were concerned that the Yugoslavs might retaliate by firing on the NATO troops.
More than 20,000 refugees have fled to Macedonia, and officials are attempting to develop a plan for housing and feeding them while the crisis in Kosovo continues.
Electricity was back on early Thursday in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, as a tense quiet prevailed after airstrikes were suspended. Many residents were stocking up on bread and candles, said Daloni Carlisle of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Carlisle said Kosovars were "trying to keep their heads down" as they watched for a resumption of airstrikes. "I think everybody in Pristina is just very scared," Carlisle said. "Their first need is not food or medicine -- it's security."
Yugoslavia claims there were civilian casualties in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia after the first wave of
NATO airstrikes. The Yugoslav army said an unspecified number of women and children had been killed in military housing and that seven towns had been hit in a barrage of cruise missiles.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia would urge the United Nations to lift the arms embargo resolution on Yugoslavia. He characterized NATO action against Yugoslavia as "aggression against a country which needs help and support to retaliate."
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has beefed up its security, after Serbian demonstrators protested the NATO attack. Russian ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said at a rally that some Russians are ready to fight for their "Slavic brothers" in Yugoslavia.
U.S. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole, Republican and former Red Cross chief, expressed support for the military action in Yugoslavia, saying it was needed to curb Serb offensives against Kosovar Albanians. "The atrocities carried out by Serbian nationalists must be halted," she said.
Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley, the former New Jersey senator, also expressed support for the military action and for American and NATO troops. But he said he has "serious questions about our policy. We are escalating our commitment without establishing a clear exit strategy."
In an address to the American people Wednesday night, U.S. President Bill Clinton said the attacks are necessary to "defuse a powder keg at the heart of Europe" and said the world had a "moral imperative" to stop a Yugoslav crackdown on Kosovar Albanians.
"In the Balkans, inaction in the face of brutality simply invites more brutality. But firmness can stop armies and save lives," he said. However, Clinton specifically ruled out the introduction of U.S. ground forces in a combat capacity. "I don't intend to put our troops in Kosovo to fight a war," he said.
Correspondent Bettina Lüscher in Berlin reported that Operation Allied Force represented the first time since World War II that German troops and aircraft were sent to another country. German leaders regard it as an important step, Luscher said.
Correspondent Martin Savidge, aboard the USS Philippine Sea in the Adriatic Sea, reported that at about 2 a.m. Thursday morning (8 p.m. Wednesday EST), three more Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from the ship and a fourth was launched from the nearby USS Gonzales. The launches ended a lull of several hours in military action on the ships, which earlier had sent up a dozen missiles.
In an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live," the Yugoslav charge d'affaires in Washington, Nebojsa Vujovic, said the airstrikes caused "many casualties" in Yugoslavia. Serbian television showed footage of what it said were wounded civilians in a hospital.
Pentagon officials said NATO aircraft did not come under fire from Yugoslav anti-aircraft missiles but were challenged by Russian-made MiG fighters. U.S. officials say they have "high confidence" that at least two MiGs were shot down. Both NATO and the Pentagon denied a Belgrade Radio report that a NATO plane had been shot down in northern Kosovo.
Though U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton declined to say publicly how long the campaign might last, senior Pentagon and NATO officials tell CNN that the attacks could be sustained over two to three weeks unless the Yugoslavs reverse course and agree to the Kosovo peace deal.
Several journalists from Western news organizations, including four from CNN, were taken from a hotel by Serb police and detained for several hours. Most were eventually released.
-- U.S. military officials say the opening salvo of the NATO airstrikes consisted of about 100 satellite-guided cruise missiles launched from U.S. and British naval vessels and by U.S. B-52 bombers flying out of bases in Britain.
That initial wave was followed with attacks by manned aircraft, including fighters, bombers and tankers. Included were radar-resistant U.S. B-2 stealth bombers making their combat debut. Aircraft from 11 NATO nations took part.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said late Wednesday afternoon that targets included Yugoslavia's air defenses, its command and control capability and its military forces stationed inside Kosovo. He would not discuss specific targets and declined to characterize the extent of Yugoslav resistance.
Shelton said it was too early to give a battle-damage assessment. NATO officials were to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Thursday (8 a.m. EST) at which more details of the attack results are expected.
NATO has dubbed its mission Operation Allied Force. The U.S. military is calling its segment of the mission Operation Noble Anvil.
At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said Russia "immediately demands the immediate cessation of this illegal military action." Earlier, President Boris Yeltsin called the NATO attacks "outright aggression" and said his country would take "adequate measures, including military ones, to ensure Russia's safety."
Vujovic called the airstrikes a "total breach of international order" and a "crime against humanity." He said his government would "never recognize" an independent Kosovo.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi told state television in Beijing on Thursday morning that the Kosovo issue is an "internal affair of Yugoslavia" and called for an immediate halt to NATO attacks.
Correspondent Brent Sadler reported the first explosions in Pristina, the capital of the Serbian province of Kosovo, just before 8 p.m. Wednesday (2 p.m. EST/1900 GMT). Explosions on the outskirts of the city rattled windows and threw up huge orange fireballs visible in Pristina, which was virtually in darkness.
Correspondent Christiane Amanpour in Belgrade reported hearing several explosions and seeing two flashes in the night skies on the distant horizon. A witness told CNN that a military airport about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) outside Belgrade had been hit. The Yugoslav military command said 20 targets were hit.
Serbian television showed footage of damaged buildings on fire in the city of Novi Sad. Between newscasts, state TV ran World War II movies in which Serbs took on the Nazis. The state news agency Tanjug reported that relatives of soldiers had been killed in an attack on a military barracks.
Correspondent Jim Bittermann at NATO's Aviano Air Base in Italy said military aircraft began taking off about 6 p.m. (noon EST/1700 GMT). Overall, about 70 of the base's 130 planes were deployed. By about 10:15 p.m. (4:15 p.m. EST/2115 GMT), planes had begun returning.
Correspondent Matthew Chance in Skopje, Macedonia, reported that NATO tanks were patrolling the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. About 10,000 NATO forces stationed in Macedonia were on alert.
In protest against the attacks, Russia recalled its ambassador to NATO, closed its offices at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and announced that it would pull out of NATO's Partnership for Peace process and remove 80 military observers from Macedonia.
U.S. President Bill Clinton said the NATO mission has three goals: to show NATO's serious commitment to peace in Kosovo, to deter further attacks by Yugoslav government troops, and, if necessary, to degrade the capacity of the Yugoslav armed forces.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "There are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace." But he said the Security Council should be involved in the decision to use force. At Russia's request, the council held a closed-door meeting late Wednesday afternoon.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "We are taking this action for one very simple reason -- to damage Serb forces sufficiently to prevent Milosevic from continuing to perpetuate his vile oppression against innocent Albanian civilians."
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said, "Our actions are directed against the repressive policy of Yugoslav leadership." He said NATO was not at war with the Yugoslav people.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose military forces are participating in a combat campaign in Europe for the first time since World War II, appealed to Germans "to stand by our soldiers in this hour."
Airstrikes on Yugoslavia suspended, more attacks likely
March 25, 1999
Clinton: NATO strikes will 'defuse a powder keg'
March 24, 1999
Yeltsin to meet with aides on response to bombings
March 24, 1999
KLA goes from splinter group to potential giant-killer
March 24, 1999
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Facts
Kosova Crisis Center
NATO Official Homepage
Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)
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