NATO reports 'breakthrough' against Serb forces
April 7, 1999
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- A NATO military spokesman said Wednesday its air campaign had achieved a "major breakthrough" against Serb ground forces in Kosovo by hitting an armored column involved in the crackdown against ethnic Albanians in the Serb province.
Air Commodore David Wilby of Britain said the last round of airstrikes had hit 28 fixed-target areas, including an armored convoy of between seven to 12 armored vehicles.
Wilby, addressing a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, described the latest bombings as "robust" and said NATO bombs also hit such targets as ammunition depots, bridges and command and control centers.
The Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug reported Wednesday that at least 10 civilians were killed and eight others seriously injured in the airstrikes, which the agency said hit the densely populated Kosovo capital of Pristina Tuesday night.
The death toll could rise, because rescue teams had not finished searching all the Pristina houses hit, Tanjug said.
NATO's civilian spokesman, Jamie Shea, also speaking in Brussels, repeated NATO's refusal to abide by Milosevic's unilateral cease-fire announcement, which was made Tuesday.
Shea said NATO would accept nothing less than full Yugoslav compliance with NATO conditions for a Kosovo settlement, which include the return of Kosovo refugees and an interim peace accord monitored by thousands of NATO-led ground troops.
Shea said the Serb crackdown against ethnic Albanians was continuing, with 42,000 expelled on Tuesday. Overall, 912,000 Kosovo Albanians have been displaced in the past year because of the conflict, he added.
The refugee situation in the region improved Wednesday after Macedonia finished emptying the border enclave at Blace, where tens of thousands of Kosovo refugees had been trapped for days in squalid conditions.
Between 25,000 and 30,000 ethnic Albanians were bused overnight to new NATO tent cities at Stenkovec and other locations, where they received hot meals and medical attention.
Meanwhile, Yugoslav authorities on Wednesday reportedly closed the border between Yugoslavia and neighboring Macedonia and Albania.
In Belgrade, a senior Yugoslav official confirmed to CNN that a delegation from Cyprus was expected to discuss the matter.
NATO on Wednesday rejected any conditions that Belgrade might attach to the men's possible release.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, speaking in London, said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was responsible for the Serb economy shrinking by more than half -- an economic situation that stood in stark contrast to Milosevic's personal wealth.
"Tell the people of Serbia how much wealth you have sucked out during the same years they have been impoverished in Serbia," Cook said.
Serbian television said Wednesday that NATO'S rejection of the announced unilateral cease-fire proved NATO's "criminal intentions" to impose foreign "occupation" troops on the country.
Cook described Milosevic's cease-fire announcement as a "sham."
A statement from the Yugoslav army said the armed forces were abiding by the cease-fire, and there was no military activity in the province except NATO attacks.
Government media said the targets included a fuel storage facility at the airport near Pristina, Kosovo's capital; a residential area near the old post office in central Pristina; a fuel depot in the village of Devet Jugovica and unspecified targets in Ajvalija and Gracanica on the outskirts of Pristina.
State television also said a garage and warehouse at an oil refinery in Novi Sad, Serbia's second largest city, were destroyed, and that the industrial zone in the central Serbian city of Nis was attacked.
A group of professors from Belgrade University, mostly members of the neo-Communist Yugoslav Left led by Milosevic's wife, stood on a Belgrade bridge throughout the night to serve as a "human shield" against the NATO attacks.
NATO defies Yugoslav cease-fire with more bombing
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