Yugoslav train hit during NATO strike; 10 dead
April 12, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO missiles blasted apart a passenger train in southern Serbia on Monday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 16, Serb officials said.
The train stopped on a bridge near the village of Grdelica, 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Belgrade, after a first missile cut electric power at 11:40 a.m. local time, authorities said. They said a second missile struck two cars, setting them ablaze and sending them plunging into a canyon.
"People were moaning, screaming for help," the state news agency Tanjug quoted one of the rescuers as saying. "Those unharmed managed to climb out of the smashed train windows."
Reporting from the scene, CNN Correspondent Brent Sadler said the rail bridge was heavily damaged and that two cars had fallen into a ravine. He said at least nine bodies had been pulled from the wreckage, including one child.
Serb officials at first said the train was bound for Thessaloniki, Greece, but Greek railroad officials said that train arrived safely.
NATO acknowledged it had targeted a rail bridge it considered an important military supply line and said there were reports that a train was on or near the bridge at the time of the attack.
But the alliance said in a statement that it had taken "extraordinary measures to avoid collateral casualties" in its air campaign against Yugoslavia.
"Regrettably, we cannot exclude the possibility of casualties in this instance," it said.
Yugoslav Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa Vujovic said the bridge was not used for military activity and called the attack "a great tragedy, a great crime against humanity in broad daylight."
Later Monday, an explosion was heard in Belgrade after nightfall, and anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies.
Serbian television reported strikes on Pancevo and Novi Sad, two cities that have come under repeated NATO attacks. It showed video of burning buildings but left uncertain exactly what was hit.
Apparently hoping to draw Russia into providing military support, Yugoslavia's federal parliament voted Monday to join an alliance with Russia and Belarus.
The Russian-Belarus union, completed in 1997 after months of haggling, calls for military cooperation and extensive political and economic ties, including the possibility of a single currency.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Moscow regards the idea of Yugoslav membership positively and will study it. But he cautioned that membership can't be granted quickly.
It was unclear what formal steps need to be taken for Yugoslavia to join the alliance.
Pentagon sources said hundreds of U.S. warplanes may soon be sent to Europe to intensify attacks on Serb forces.
Sources said the additional planes would be used for air-to-ground combat, suppression of air defenses and refueling tankers.
The new aircraft would bring the total numer of NATO planes in the region to nearly 1,000.
At NATO headquarters in Brussels, NATO ministers met Monday to express unity and discuss the future of Kosovo.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "is losing and he knows he is losing," said NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. "NATO is united. You have justice and right on our side, and we will prevail."
Solana said all 19 NATO members reaffirmed their commitment to continue the airstrikes against Yugoslavia.
"NATO's military action will be pursued until President Milosevic accedes to the demands of the international community," the ministers said in a statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that in informal discussions, NATO ministers have talked about an "international protective status" for the Serbian province. She said she did not favor partition for Kosovo.
Solana said NATO's top priority was the return of hundreds of thousands of Kosovo refugees to their homes. He said that would require the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army and Serb paramilitary forces.
NATO has endorsed the idea of autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia. Asked how Kosovo could be considered part of Yugoslavia if troops were withdrawn, Solana said he did not know what kind of scheme might be negotiated in the end, but in the interim, Serb forces would have to pull back and an international force would have to be deployed to help refugees return home.
Before dawn Monday, NATO pilots hit a heating plant, an oil refinery and a facility where surface-to-air missiles are produced and stored.
NATO missiles also again struck the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac, which NATO said manufactures military armaments. The factory, where the Yugo car is produced, was the site of an attack last week that Serb TV said injured 120 civilians.
CNN's Alessio Vinci in Belgrade said the factory manager told him that 14 missiles hit the car factory -- the first seven within 20 seconds.
After a warning from Serb authorities, all the workers were evacuated.
But 38,000 workers are now jobless, the factory manager said. He also said that, despite differing reports, 95 percent of production was devoted to civilian work.
The surface-to-air missile storage and production facility was struck in Novi Sad, Serbia's second-largest city, where two key bridges and an oil refinery already have been hit.
The oil depot strike was the second at the Pancevo refinery, which Serb TV said is located about 100 yards from a residential area. It said there were no injuries in the attack.
NATO says all Yugoslavia's refineries have been hit and 70 percent of its petroleum stocks have been destroyed.
Gen. Sir Charles Guthrie, head of the British Defense staff, said that for the first time Royal Air Force planes were bombing targets through clouds.
"We've been working extremely hard over the last few weeks to develop our techniques, and to refine the accuracy of such attacks. We are now satisfied that with a degree of target information, an accuracy of such attack allows us confidently to carry them out while minimizing the risk of collateral damage," said Guthrie.Correspondents Brent Sadler and Alessio Vinci in Belgrade contributed to this report.
Refugees seek peace, security outside Balkans
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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