|CAMPAIGN FOR KOSOVO|
April 14, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Another day of NATO air strikes brought a dispute over the cause of civilian casualties. Food and water for displaced Albanians within Kosovo grew scarce, and thousands more of them poured into Albania and Macedonia. Spencer Michels has our summary report.
SPENCER MICHELS: Serbia's official media reported today that a NATO missile hit a convoy of refugees and killed at least 64 people and wounded 20. The report said the strike occurred on a bridge near the southern Kosovo town of Jacovitsa. The Serb-run media center in the Kosovo capital of Pristina said two separate refugee convoys were bombed, most of them made up of women, children and elderly ethnic Albanians, who were being escorted by Serbian police. Pentagon officials said NATO was investigating the Serb charge, but that only military vehicles were hit. Air Force Major General Charles Wald gave an overview of how bombing missions work.
MAJOR GENERAL CHARLES WALD, US Air Force: The forward air controller will be cued to a target area by possibly an off-board sensor or some other report, or possibly he will be looking in the area himself and find a - what could be a military target. He loiters over the area to identify the target and train for identified military targets, as you can imagine, and at that time will call in another set of fighters, probably two, to expend their ordinance on their target. But before they do that, the FAC, forward air controller, will talk to the other set of fighters and make sure they both have a hundred percent assurance that they have the correct target, they both identify it, and there's a verbiage that goes on between the two. And then, and not until then, is the pilot cleared in to drop the bomb, and once the forward air controller is assured this pilot is dropping on the right target, he will clear him to drop the bomb. And then from bomb fall till target impact is about 10 to 15 seconds. So, through that 10 to 15 seconds, it's once again basically you're at the mercy of fate. But the fact of the matter is in both minds of the pilot and the air crew that's dropping the bomb, you have to be in your own mind 100% sure of what you're going on before you actually release. So it's about as positive control on a weapons release as you can get.
REPORTER: Tractors from the air filled with people's mattresses don't look like military convoys would you say?
MAJOR GENERAL CHARLES WALD: Well, I've been a foreign air controller in Vietnam, I've flown in Bosnia these types of missions dozens of time, I've flown over Iraq, and I can honestly say that if there's any doubt whatsoever in either the pilot or the air crew that's dropping the bombs, the FAC or the air crew, they will not drop. I can also tell you that it's easy to tell the difference between a tractor and a tank. So, yes, I'd answer your question, you can tell. And, if there's any doubt, you just don't drop.
SPENCER MICHELS: General Wald was interrupted by Pentagon Spokesman Ken Bacon, who said he had just talked with NATO's commander about the attack.
KENNETH BACON, Pentagon Spokesman: I have talked to General Clark. He has received reports from the pilots that they believed they hit only military vehicles. And as Tony Capacio said, he's also received verbal reports of the possibility that after the convoy was hit, military people got out and attacked civilians. He believes that there may be some imagery of that and he is trying to get it now but he doesn't know for a fact that he does have it.
REPORTER: Were civilians in the military convoy?
KENNETH BACON: Pardon?
REPORTER: Were in the convoy?
REPORTER: Can you explain that?
KENNETH BACON: They were in the convoy is what he said -- that there were military vehicles at either end. But I want to be very clear, this is under review, he's looking for film and, again, this is separate from the other incident that I mentioned that we are getting reports from refugees that they have been attacked, some refugee convoys have been attacked by Yugoslav aircraft.
SPENCER MICHELS: In Brussels, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, meeting with NATO officials, said her agency has been stifled in attempts to aid refugees still in Kosovo -- refugees who are in desperate need of food.
SADAKO OGATA, UN High Commissioner for Refugees: We don't know exactly how many there are because many of them left, were forced to leave, and there may be more who were forced to be displaced, but we will be able to go back only if there is security assured, which would mean the withdrawal of Serb and deployment of international military forces there too. Security assurance is the basic condition under which we can go back and really do the humanitarian work.
SPENCER MICHELS: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization said bombing has destroyed food processing industries, that farm animals have been killed by Serb troops, and that crops have been abandoned. That has created a severe food shortage, especially for refugees who have left their homes but have not crossed the border.
CATHERINE BERTINI, World Food Program: We're extremely concerned about their status. It's been in many cases at least two weeks, and certainly if you have no food or very limited food over a two or three or four week period of time, you become very weak and susceptible to all kind of diseases, especially if you're living outside in the elements, as many of these people are.
SPENCER MICHELS: NATO says it can't drop food from the air into Kosovo because its planes would be vulnerable to Serb antiaircraft fire. At the Yugoslav/Macedonian border, an estimated 3,000 people crossed over today, and more flooded into Albania as well, part of the tide of ½ million homeless Kosovars who have escaped their homeland. For both groups of refugees -- those in Kosovo and those who have fled -- the UN's Ogata and NATO's Secretary-General, Javier Solana, said Serb President Slobodan Milosevic holds the key.
JAVIER SOLANA, Secretary-General, NATO: Let me straighten one thing; the responsibility of the situation of these people is, like President Milosevic, can immediately, immediately change completely and drastically the condition of these people which are in the mountains.
SPENCER MICHELS: Allied officials are also focusing on ethnic Albanian women's stories of rape by Serbian soldiers. This mother was terrified as soldiers separated women from their families. Then, she said, they raped ten of them by the side of the road.
WOMAN: (speaking through interpreter) They said to the girls, "You are beautiful. You are for me. We're not going to shoot you, but we want your families to see what you are doing." They threw the girls to the ground, then they ripped every part of their clothing.
SPENCER MICHELS: British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said yesterday there is evidence that Serbs have set up rape camps near the Albanian border. Clare Short is international development secretary, who heads Britain's refugee effort.
CLARE SHORT: The actual rape reports are still in the hundreds, rather than the kind of thousands that they built up to in Bosnia. But they're kind of graphic and deliberate and organized and designed to humiliate often in front of fathers and husbands and children, you know, just to give anguish and humiliation to the whole family.
SPENCER MICHELS: In the bombing campaign, NATO reported 30 new air strikes, hitting a company building, a hydroelectric plant, and a railway bridge. Spokesman Jamie Shea announced NATO has flown nearly 6,000 sorties in the three weeks of the war. He said NATO was "tightening the screws" on Serbia. On the diplomatic front, Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder proposed a new peace initiative today that would provide for a 24-hour suspension of allied air strikes if Milosevic began withdrawing his forces from Kosovo. NATO welcomed the German-drafted peace plan as "food for thought," but said it would not immediately endorse it because it opens the way to a suspension of air strikes.