Montenegro under NATO fire as Kosovo refugees pour in
Bombings rattle neutral stance
March 28, 1999
PODGORICA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- As a fifth day of NATO airstrikes further tested Montenegro's declared neutrality in the Kosovo conflict on Sunday, thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees poured into the small Yugoslav republic from Kosovo, relating stories of Serb brutality.
Witnesses said several explosions rocked a military airport outside the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica Sunday afternoon, throwing a plume of smoke into the sky.
It was the fourth time Montenegro has come under NATO fire, even though the republic's pro-Western government has refused to back Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's policy on Kosovo.
Kosovo is the southern province of Serbia, Montenegro's sister state in the Yugoslav federation.
"Every bomb that falls on Montenegro is making it more difficult for us to keep peace in our region," said Secretary-General Milorad Jovovic of Montenegro's foreign ministry.
Montenegrin leaders have said the bombing campaign is fueling support for Milosevic and threatening efforts to build democracy in Montenegro.
Also straining Montenegrin stability is the massive influx of refugees from Kosovo.
CNN's Mike Hanna reported seeing more than 1,500 refugees entering Montenegro within just a few hours on Sunday, mostly from the Kosovo city of Pec. They had walked through snow and heavy fog to get across the mountainous border region.
Many of the refugees said Serb forces were carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing in the troubled province, carrying out executions, ordering residents to leave their homes and hauling away large numbers of people in trucks to unknown destinations.
"Our home is burning up, our shops, everything" one refugee said.
Among those fleeing Kosovo was the region's Serbian archbishop and his staff, who confirmed that atrocities were taking place.
Tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians have left Kosovo for neighboring Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia in the past few days, NATO officials said.
"Clearly a catastrophe is unfolding," a senior U.S. administration official told CNN.
5th day of NATO strikes begins; ethnic Albanians flee Kosovo
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