NATO concentrates its air attacks on Kosovo


NATO said yesterday it had kept up the pace of air attacks on Serbia on Thursday night, sparing Belgrade but pounding the Yugoslav military in Kosovo. The alliance also continued daylight bombing raids yesterday.

The Yugoslav news agency Tanjug claimed several towns had been hit by missiles, including Prizren in Kosovo, on Thursday night.

NATO said it had flown 610 sorties on Thursday, including 234 strikes, compared with only 30 sorties a day when the alliance launched the strikes 73 days ago on March 24th.

"On day 72 of Operation Allied Force, attacks against Serb forces continued. In Kosovo, allied aircraft struck 21 artillery pieces, 30 mortar positions, four tanks, 10 armoured personnel carriers, and eight antiaircraft artillery pieces," a NATO statement said.

According to NATO, targets included ammunition storage sites at Novi Pazar, Boljevac and Kursumlija, a petroleum storage site at Sombor and a railway petroleum loading facility at Leskovac, but no sites in major cities. They also included a training area at Cuprija, an airfield at Ponikve and the headquarters of the Serbian special police, the MUP, at Kula Milicija.

NATO said it wanted tangible proof that Yugoslav president Milosevic was committed to the peace plan and had ordered a pullout of troops. The alliance would not stop bombing until it saw such proof.

"A start to the withdrawal should be sufficient [to stop bombing]," NATO deputy Secretary-General Klaus Kleiber said in Bonn yesterday.

"Radar pictures and verification on the ground may be necessary."

The Yugoslav state agency Tanjug reported heavy NATO air strikes in Kosovo early yesterday, when at least 15 missiles were fired at targets near the Albanian border.

"Our anti-aircraft forces acted firmly and repelled the attacks," Tanjug said.

The town of Prizren, in Kosovo, came under three successive waves of attacks overnight, according to Tanjug . At least 12 missiles were fired, it said.

The southern Serbian village of Grabovnica was attacked with three missiles, Beograd Radio 202 reported.

Tanjug also said a suburb of the southern town of Kursumlija was attacked by five waves of aircraft on Thursday evening, suffering "considerable" damage.