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DJAKOVICA REPORT (L-ONLY) BY GUY DINMORE

April 16, 1999

Voice of America April 16 1999

INTRO: FOREIGN REPORTERS HAVE BEEN ESCORTED BY THE YUGOSLAV ARMY TO THE SCENE OF AN ATTACK ON A COLUMN OF KOSOVO ALBANIANS WEDNESDAY THAT OFFICIALS BLAMED ON NATO WARPLANES. REPORTERS WERE ALSO ABLE TO SEE FIRST HAND THE EXTENT OF THE DESTRUCTION IN AREAS OF KOSOVO AND THE LARGE NUMBERS OF YUGOSLAV TROOPS STILL THERE. GUY DINMORE REPORTS.

TEXT: CHARRED CORPSES, THE WRECKAGE OF VEHICLES AND AT LEAST SIX CRATERS BESIDE THE ROAD WERE EVIDENCE OF SEVERAL ATTACKS ON WHAT HAD BEEN A LONG COLUMN OF KOSOVO ALBANIAN REFUGEES ON THE ROAD FROM THE TOWN OF DJAKOVICA TO PRIZREN.

THE YUGOSLAV ARMY TOOK FOREIGN REPORTERS TO THREE SITES ALONG A SIX-MILE STRETCH OF ROAD WHICH THEY SAID HAD BEEN HIT BY ONE OR MORE NATO AIRCRAFT ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. A FOURTH SITE COULD NOT BE VISITED, THEY SAID, BECAUSE DARKNESS WAS FALLING AND MORE NATO BOMBS WERE FALLING IN THE AREA.

TESTIMONY FROM SURVIVORS AND FRAGMENTS OF METAL THAT BORE SERIAL NUMBERS AND A FEW WORDS IN ENGLISH SUCH AS “FIRE GUIDED MISSILES” WERE COMPELLING EVIDENCE THAT CONVOY OF REFUGEES — SAID TO BE ABOUT 100 VEHICLES — HAD COME UNDER ATTACK FROM NATO.

YUGOSLAV OFFICIALS SAID A TOTAL OF 72 PEOPLE HAD BEEN KILLED, ALTHOUGH REPORTERS SAW ONLY ABOUT 20 BODIES, INCLUDING THOSE OF CHILDREN. SOME WERE CHARRED BEYOND RECOGNITION AND BODY PARTS WERE STREWN ABOUT.

MANY QUESTIONS REMAINED UNANSWERED HOWEVER. IT WAS NOT CLEAR IF SERBIAN POLICE OR TROOPS HAD BEEN ESCORTING THE REFUGEES OR USING THEM AS COVER FOR THEIR OWN MOVEMENTS. OFFICIALS SAID THE REFUGEES WERE RETURNING TO THEIR HOMES, BUT SURVIVORS SAID THEY WERE HEADED TO PRIZREN WHICH LIES ON THE MAIN ROUTE TO ALBANIA.

DURING THE NEARLY 20 HOURS SPENT IN KOSOVO, REPORTERS WERE ALSO ABLE TO GAUGE AT FIRST HAND THE EXTENT OF DESTRUCTION THERE. ETHNIC ALBANIAN VILLAGES ALONG THE MAIN ROAD — RUNNING PARALLEL WITH THE MOUNTAINOUS BORDER — WERE ALMOST TOTALLY DESTROYED. THE BUILDINGS WERE EITHER SHELLED OR TORCHED. SOME REFUGEES PILED ONTO TRACTORS AND TRAILERS WERE STILL ON THE MOVE AS HOUSES SMOULDERED IN THE DISTANCE.

THE MAIN TOWNS HOWEVER APPEARED RELATIVELY UNSCATHED. MANY SHOPS OWNED BY ETHNIC ALBANIANS IN PRIZREN WERE LOCKED UP BUT NOT LOOTED. THE STREETS WERE ALMOST DESERTED. THE FEW INHABITANTS LEFT WERE TOO SCARED TO TALK ,BUT ONE MAN SAID THAT MANY HAD FLED.

POLICE AND TROOPS WERE SEEN IN LARGE NUMBERS, SOME USING CIVILIAN CARS FOR TRANSPORT. MILITARY VEHICLES WERE HIDDEN INSIDE FARMS AND RESIDENTIAL COMPOUNDS. WITH SO MANY MEMBERS OF THE SECURITY FORCES EITHER INSIDE URBAN AREAS OR WELL CAMOUFLAGED BUNKERS, IT WAS HARD TO IMAGINE HOW NATO AIR STRIKES COULD BE EFFECTIVE AGAINST THEM. THIS COULD EXPLAIN WHY NATO IS INTENSIFYING ITS ATTACKS ON NOT STRCTLY MILITARY TARGETS — SUCH AS FACTORIES AND BRIDGES — ACROSS SERBIA TO PUT PRESSURE ON YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC. ON THURSDAY NIGHT A FIFTH BRIDGE ACROSS THE DANUBE RIVER WAS HIT. (SIGNED)
NEB/GD/JO
16-Apr-99 3:08 PM EDT (1908 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America

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