NATO bombs hit several Yugoslav cities
April 19, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Four large explosions rocked the Belgrade suburb of Baric before dawn Monday, as NATO airstrikes continued to target petroleum refineries and chemical plants.
Serbian television reported one target was a chemical factory producing polyvinyl materials. Serbian authorities warned of an environmental catastrophe if NATO hit a separate chemical complex, which they have lit up at night to prevent an attack.
Other NATO bombs hit the regional government buildings in downtown Novi Sad, Yugoslavia's second-largest city.
Yugoslav minister promises prosecution of crimes
Vuk Draskovic, the deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia, promised punishment for those who have committed war crimes in Kosovo.
"In the case of real atrocities against any civilians in Kosovo... I will fight for punishing those people, nevertheless who they are," he said from Belgrade in a CNN interview Monday.
However, he dismissed as "untrue" NATO allegations of suspected mass graves in the province.
NATO officials reported Sunday they had evidence of 43 mass grave sites in Kosovo.
Belgrade breaks ties with Tirana
Inflaming the volatile relationship between the two countries, Yugoslavia broke off diplomatic relations Sunday with neighboring Albania, which has received floods of ethnic Albanian refugees from the Serbian province of Kosovo.
The break in relations with Albania follows months of border skirmishes and a reported Serb incursion into Albania last week.
"From Albanian territory we have had about 10 days now continuous aggression," Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said on CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday. "So, in the situation when you have a neighboring country aggressing Yugoslavia, there is no purpose of featuring normal, diplomatic relations."
After Yugoslavia broke off relations with Albania, U.S. President Bill Clinton called the leaders of Albania and three other nations that border Yugoslavia -- Romania, Bulgaria and new NATO member Hungary. All four indicated strong support for NATO's campaign, a Clinton spokesman said.
The president plans a Monday phone discussion with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the White House said. Yeltsin plans to tell Clinton that NATO should stop the bombing, according to the Russian news agency "Interfax."
Mine kills refugees meters from safety
The flow of refugees out of Kosovo into Albania and Macedonia intensified Sunday. Relief officials reported that dozens of ethnic Albanians who crossed into Albania at Morina, including four children under age 4, had been shot, wounded by shrapnel or severely beaten.
In general, the refugees were described as "extremely weak" after days of walking through rough terrain in cold and rainy weather.
In Albania, schools and ministries were being made available to house refugees, while existing tent camps in Macedonia were being expanded, according to NATO spokesman Jamie Shea.
Food supplies at an Italian-run refugee camp in Kukes, Albania, were expected to last only two to three days. Designed to house 2,500 people, the camp now holds 6,000.
British officials said Monday that 630,000 refugees had left Kosovo since March 24. Officials from the United Nations said that, in the last 72 hours, 45,000 refugees had crossed at Kukes, bringing the number of refugees in Albania to 360,000.
Kosovar death chain gangs alleged
In Brussels, NATO military spokesman Brig. Gen. Giuseppe Marani told reporters that there have been numerous refugee reports that Kosovo Albanians are being assembled in "grave-digging chain gangs" to "dig graves for their countrymen killed by ethnic Serbian cleansing."
"They are reportedly put in red-orange jackets to readily identify them, and the use of these men in red to dig graves is supported by imagery evidence which has already identified 43 mass grave sites in Kosovo," Marani said.
He said the graves were different from the mass open-trench graves used during the fighting in Bosnia.
"Instead, these sites are neat rows of individual graves pointing to the southeast, toward Mecca. Despite being forced to do this gruesome task, the Albanians are clearly trying to bury their victims of (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic with respect," Marani said.
He said refugees also have told of Kosovar boys and men forced to dig coal from mines in Pristina.
Good weather Saturday into Sunday made it possible for NATO to fly 500 missions, and officials said 35 targets were hit, including an explosives plant, oil refinery, airfield and other military and communications facilities, NATO said Sunday.
But thunderstorms and hail delayed the arrival of 24 tank-killing Apache helicopters headed for Tirana, Albania.
Serb general accuses NATO of war crimes
A Serb military commander, appearing on Serb TV, said the NATO attacks have achieved only one thing.
"They committed unbelievable crime against humanity, against whole population of Yugoslavia," said Gen. Vladimir Lazarevic, commander of the Pristina Corps. "This is part of the plan of the criminal minds in the Pentagon that want to destroy the oldest people in the Balkans, the Serbian people."
Lazarevic accused NATO of attacking hospitals, schools and residential areas.
New tape stokes convoy debate
NATO spokesmen continued to face tough questions from reporters about last week's attack on a convoy near Djakovica.
Yugoslav authorities said that several NATO attacks on civilian convoys killed as many as 85 ethnic Albanians last Wednesday.
NATO admitted that one of its pilots mistakenly dropped a bomb on a civilian vehicle near Djakovica. The alliance has fended off detailed questions about the incident, saying an investigation is continuing.
Adding to the confusion was a statement from the Pentagon on Saturday that NATO played an audiotape from a pilot not involved in the bombing of the civilian vehicle when it accepted blame for the incident.
Marani said NATO played the audiotape "to clarify what was the process, the procedure of a pilot involved in an action of that type."
NATO did not mean to imply that the pilot was involved in the hit on the civilian vehicle, he said.
Monday's London Daily Express quotes unnamed "senior defense sources" that say the Royal Air Force warned a U.S. bomber pilot not to attack the refugee convoy in Kosovo minutes before the raid.
The pilot of a British Harrier GR-7 radioed the U.S. F-16 saying he could clearly see civilian vehicles among military ones after a low-level flyover, the article reported. NATO so far has made no comment on this report.
Sources tell CNN that NATO Gen. Daniel Leaf is expected to present videotape Monday detailing NATO activity on convoys in Southern Kosovo last Wednesday.
Correspondents Alessio Vinci and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.
NATO bombs hit several Yugoslav cities
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