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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Steps Up Raids on Belgrade




BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- NATO intensified its aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia Monday as a fresh influx of 44,000 refugees from Kosovo added to the chaos facing humanitarian aid workers on the borders with Albania and Macedonia.


In the early hours of Monday NATO missiles struck at Yugoslavia's air force headquarters and a key army installation in the south of the country used for launching military operations in Kosovo.


During the 13th straight day of air attacks aimed at halting a Serbian military rampage against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, local officials said NATO also hit a military barracks in north Belgrade, where water supplies were disrupted by the blasts.


Monday's strikes followed a weekend bombardment of the Yugoslav capital that included the federal Interior Ministry and Serbian republic police headquarters, in a sharp escalation of the West's campaign against President Slobodan Milosevic's forces. Early Saturday, flames burned out of control from the buildings in a government district that is close to residential areas as well as the main medical complex in Belgrade.


Serbian television, saying "criminal aggression hit the heart of Belgrade," reported that one missile struck close to a maternity hospital that is part of the nearby complex. The independent Beta news agency reported the medical complex was undamaged.


On Monday, NATO pledged to step up attacks on Serbian police and ground forces responsible for the mass expulsions of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. The latest round of airstrikes were apparently aimed at the Yugoslav security forces' lines of supply - roads, bridges and airports, fuel depots and command centers - whose destruction would cripple the army and make it easier for NATO to strike directly at the Serbian forces in Kosovo.


State-run television showed Milosevic meeting aides and urging quick reconstruction of every facility damaged or destroyed by NATO. The report also said Milosevic awarded several Yugoslav army officers medals for bravery in the fight against "aggressor" NATO.


Alliance officials in Brussels, Belgium, said the alliance had been able to use "all its assets" due to a long-awaited improvement in the weather over Yugoslavia and would continue to intensify its operations.


British Air Commodore David Wilby, NATO military spokesman, told a news conference: "The weather forecast remains favorable and we will continue to intensify our operations. We will capitalize on the clear weather to attack strategic and operational targets throughout the operation area."


NATO has complained since it began its air campaign March 24 that alliance aircraft have not been able to operate properly due to low cloud.


During Monday morning's strikes residents in various parts of Belgrade heard low-flying missiles above their buildings followed by deep blasts.


Witnesses said a special police training school in the east of Belgrade appeared to have been hit and Serbia's Studio B television reported minor damage to the main building of the city's international airport.


State television showed pictures of burning buildings and a hospital ward filled with victims after missiles pounded targets in Belgrade's northern district of Zemun.


Tens of thousands of refugees - stranded, hungry and exhausted in no-man's land between Yugoslavia and Macedonia - waited a second day for a promised airlift to take them from Macedonia's capital, Skopje.


A UN official said she feared the massive airlift, carrying ethnic Albanian refugees to sanctuary in other countries, would in fact take several more days to prepare.


The United States announced plans to send Apache attack helicopters, 18 multiple rocket launchers and 2,000 troops to the region so NATO can closely strike Serb troops and tanks in Kosovo.


Although U.S. troops will be put at greater risk in escalating the nearly two-week-old campaign, U.S. defense officials said the Apaches could help halt Yugoslavia's campaign to rout ethnic Albanians from the province. "This will basically help NATO tighten the noose around Milosevic's neck," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Sunday. "This will help NATO do more to kill armored forces quickly than we've been able to do so far."


The 18 multiple-launch rocket systems will protect the all-weather Apaches with short- and medium-range missiles, some armed with scores of "bomblets," to take out Yugoslav air defenses throughout Kosovo, Bacon told reporters. Fourteen Bradley Fighting Vehicles, military police and intelligence personnel will be among the U.S. troops sent to Albania.


NATO leaders were meeting Monday in Brussels to approve using the weapons, which were requested a week ago by U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme allied commander. President Bill Clinton would then need to approve the Apache gunship plan a second time, although Defense Secretary William Cohen has signed the deployment order, the Pentagon said.


Belgrade-based Beta reported NATO missiles had hit the headquarters of Yugoslavia's 3rd Army command in the major southeastern Serbian town of Nis on Monday.


Beta also quoted Radio Nis as saying that military targets in the town's industrial zone had been hit in the overnight attacks, causing a fire that spread to a tobacco warehouse.