Home > 1997-1999 from the Balkans, Kosovo, Serbia, Yougoslavia > YUGO SITREP Q & A BY GUY DINMORE / RUSS WOODGATES (BELGRADE / WASHINGTON)

YUGO SITREP Q & A BY GUY DINMORE / RUSS WOODGATES (BELGRADE / WASHINGTON)

April 16, 1999

Voice of America, April 16 1999

ANNCR: LET ME ASK YOU FOR AN ASSESSMENT OF WHAT YOU SAW YESTERDAY WHEN SERB HANDLERS TOOK YOU AND SEVERAL OTHER REPORTERS TO SOUTHWEST KOSOVO TO LOOK AT THE WRECKAGE OF THE SUPPOSED NATO AIRSTRIKE (ON A CONVOY OF REFUGEES WEDNESDAY).

DINMORE: WELL, FIRST OF ALL WE WENT TO THE MAIN SOUTHERN TOWN OF PRIZREN WHERE WE WERE TAKEN TO THE MAIN HOSPITAL. THERE WE SAW SIX BODIES IN A MORGUE. WE WERE ABLE TO SPEAK WITH SOME OF THE WOUNDED FROM THE ATTACK ON THIS REFUGEE COLUMN, INCLUDING ONE SURVIVOR WHO DESCRIBED HEARING AIRCRAFT OVERHEAD AND THEN THE EXPLOSION THAT TORE THIS REFUGEE COLUMN APART. WE WERE THEN TAKEN ALONG THE ROAD LEADING FROM PRIZREN NORTHWEST TO THE TOWN OF DJAKOVICA — ON WHICH THIS COLUMN HAD BEEN MOVING. WE WERE SHOWN THREE DIFFERENT SPOTS ALONG THE ROAD WHERE THIS COLUMN WAS HIT — A DISTANCE OF ABOUT FIVE OR SIX MILES BETWEEN THE FIRST SPOT AND THE SECOND. I COUNTED A TOTAL OF SIX IMPACTS RIGHT NEXT TO THE ROAD, CLEARLY CAUSED BY HEAVY BOMBS OR MISSILES. WE SAW TRACTORS OVERTURNED AND BURNED. WE SAW (PERSONAL) POSSESSIONS, SUITCASES, BELONGINGS SCATTERED ALONG THE ROAD. WE SAW A TOTAL OF ABOUT 15 BODIES — SOME OF THEM CHARRED ALMOST BEYOND RECOGNITION. THERE WAS A DRIVER SLUMPED ACROSS THE WHEEL OF HIS TRACTOR, THE BODY OF A YOUNG GIRL INCINERATED BENEATH A TRAILER, A TANGLED HEAP OF BODIES THERE, A SEVERED HEAD THAT WAS JUST LYING IN A FIELD NEAR BY. THERE WERE SIX OTHER BODIES LAID IN A ROW NEXT TO THE SCENE, COLLECTED FRAGMENTS OF WHAT APPEARED TO BE THE NATO MISSILES WHICH HAD SERIAL NUMBERS AND WORDS IN ENGLISH THAT SHOW DATE OF MANUFACTURE. ANOTHER PIECE READ MADE FOR MARK 82, ANOTHER PIECE SAID FIRE-GUIDED MISSILE.

ANNCR: DID YOU FIND THOSE FRAGMENTS AT MORE THAN ONE LOCATION?

DINMORE: THIS WAS AT THE THIRD SPOT WE WERE TAKEN TO, WHERE THERE WERE A TOTAL OF THREE BOMB CRATERS AND WE FOUND THOSE FRAGMENTS IN TWO OF THOSE CRATERS.

ANNCR: AT THE OTHER TWO LOCATIONS YOU VISITED, DID YOU FIND ANY FRAGMENTS THERE?

DINMORE: WELL WE FOUND FRAGMENTS OF METAL FROM THE BOMBS OR SHELLS — OR WHATEVER THEY WERE. WE DIDN’T ACTUALLY FIND ANY PIECES THAT HAD SORT OF RECOGNIZABLE WRITING ON THEM.

ANNCR: WERE THERE ANY SIGNS OF REFUGEE FAMILIES COMING TO COLLECT THEIR DEAD? DINMORE: NO, THERE WEREN’T. WE SAW SIX TRACTORS AND TRAILERS MOVING ALONG THAT ROAD TOWARDS PRIZREN. THERE WERE A FEW SURVIVORS AT THE SCENES OF THE BOMBING ATTACK. WE INTERVIEWED THEM. WE WERE SLIGHTLY SUSPICIOUS — IT DID SEEM THEY WERE PLACED THERE FOR OUR CONVENIENCE AND WERE SORT OF LISTENED TO BY OFFICIAL (GOVERNMENT) INTERPRETERS AS WE SPOKE TO THEM. THEY ALL GAVE ROUGHLY THE SAME STORY THAT THEY WERE IN THIS COLUMN OF REFUGEES MOVING TOWARDS PRIZREN; THAT THEY HEARD AIRCRAFT AND MASSIVE EXPLOSIONS THAT TORE THE COLUMN APART.

ANNCR: AT YESTERDAY’S (THURSDAY) NATO BRIEFING IN BRUSSELS, AND AGAIN TODAY, NATO SPOKESMEN ADMITTED THAT ONE LASER-GUIDED BOMB MAY HAVE ACCIDENTLY BEEN FIRED AT HE HEAD VEHICLE IN ONE CONVOY, BUT THEY DENIED THAT THERE WERE ANY OTHER SHOTS FIRED OR BOMBS DROPPED IN ANY OTHER FASHION. YOU SAY YOU SAW WHAT APPEARED TO BE FRAGMENTS OF A NATO SHELL, BUT NOT AT THE OTHER TWO.

DINMORE: WELL, WE FOUND FRAGMENTS OF SHELLS AT ALL LOCATIONS, BUT IT WAS ONLY AT ONE PARTICULAR LOCATION WHERE THE FRAGMENTS WERE LARGE ENOUGH TO BE READ. I MUST SAY THE EVIDENCE IS FAIRLY COMPELLING THAT THIS COLUMN WAS ATTACKED BY AIRCRAFT. I DON’T BELIEVE THE STORIES THAT THESE WERE YUGOSLAV AIRCRAFT. I DON’T SEE HOW THEY COULD HAVE POSSIBLY GOTTEN UP IN THE AIR WITHOUT BEING SHOT DOWN BY NATO. THE MISSILES HAD OBVIOUSLY BEEN FIRED WITH INCREDIBLE ACCURACY. THEY ALL LANDED EITHER ON THE ROAD OR RIGHT NEXT TO THE ROAD. I DOUBT VERY MUCH THAT THIS WAS ARTILLERY FIRE. I DON’T BELIEVE NATO’S STORY, QUITE FRANKLY.

ANNCR: ON THE WAY TO AND FROM THE SITES IN SOUTHWEST KOSOVO, WHAT ELSE DID YOU SEE THAT MIGHT GIVE US SOME INSIGHT AS TO THE CONDITIONS INSIDE KOSOVO — EITHER IN TERMS OF MILITARY MOVEMENTS OR REFUGEE MOVEMENTS?

DINMORE: WELL THE DEVASTATION WAS QUITE APPALLING. ALMOST ALL THE VILLAGES ALONG THIS ROAD, THAT RUNS PARALLEL WITH THE BORDER WITH ALBANIA, WERE SORT OF BLACKENED WRECKS, RUINED FARM HOUSES, STILL SOME SMOKE COMING FROM SOME BUILDINGS, OBVIOUSLY BEEN SET ALIGHT QUITE RECENTLY. INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, SOME TOWNS WE WENT THROUGH, WERE LARGELY UNTOUCHED. WE SAW VERY LITTLE DESTRUCTION THERE APART FROM THE AFFECTS OF NATO ATTACKS ON ARMY GARRISONS. SOME SHOPS HAD BEEN LOOTED. PRIZREN SEEMED LARGELY EMPTY OF PEOPLE, ALTHOUGH I WANDERED DOWN ONE STREET IN A GYPSY QUARTER AND THERE WERE LOST OF GYPSIES STILL LIVING THERE. THEY SAID MOST PEOPLE WERE HIDING IN THEIR HOMES, ALTHOUGH SOME (ETHNIC) ALBANIANS ALSO TOLD ME LARGE NUMBERS HAD FLED. WE SAW A FEW REFUGEES ON THE ROAD — BUT NOT THAT MANY. NOT VERY MUCH MILITARY MOVEMENT — A LOT OF TROOPS OR MEN IN UNIFORM IN THE TOWNS THEMSELVES BUT VERY LITTLE TRAFFIC OUTSIDE. A LOT OF SOLDIERS AND POLICE WERE ACTUALLY TRAVELLING IN UNMARKED CIVILIAN CARS, PRESUMABLY BECAUSE THEY THINK THAT IS SAFER THAN MOVING AROUND IN MILITARY VEHICLES. WE HEARD SOME NATO BOMBING IN THE DISTANCE, WHICH WAS THE REASON WHY LATE IN THE DAY OUR (SERB) ESCORTS DIDN’T WANT TO TAKE US TO THE FOURTH SITE OF THIS REFUGEE COLUMN WHICH THEY SAID WAS ATTACKED ON WEDNESDAY.

ANNCR: YOU ARE NOW BACK IN BELGRADE, WHERE IT IS EVENING. // OPT

// HAVE YOU HEARD ANY AIR RAID SIRENS TONIGHT? IS THERE ANY RESUMPTION OF THE NATO BOMBING? // END OPT //

DINMORE: // OPT // NO. THE AIR RAID SIRENS HAVEN’T GONE OFF YET. THEY NORMALLY SOUND AROUND EIGHT O’CLOCK. // END OPT // THIS CITY I FOUND TODAY WAS AT ITS BUSIEST AND MOST CROWDED SINCE NATO’S OFFENSIVE BEGAN OVER THREE WEEKS AGO. LOTS OF PEOPLE IN THE STREETS, QUITE A LOT OF TRAFFIC, EVEN TRAFFIC JAMS IN CENTRAL BELGRADE. HOW PEOPLE ARE FINDING THE PETROL TO DRIVE AROUND, I REALLY DON’T KNOW. LIFE IN BELGRADE ACTUALLY SEEMED, FROM WHAT I SAW THIS AFTERNOON, ALMOST NORMAL.

/// OPT ///

ANNCR: AND WHAT, IF ANYTHING, HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO SEE OF THE SERB MEDIA TODAY — TELEVISION OR RADIO? HOW ARE THEY PLAYING THESE STORIES?

DINMORE: I’VE SEEN THE SERBIAN NEWSPAPERS, AND SAW A BIT OF TELEVISION, AND THEY ARE BLAMING NATO OUTRIGHT FOR THIS ATTACK ON THE REFUGEE COLUMN — CALLING IT “AN AGGRESSIVE ATTACK BY NATO,” “A CRIMINAL ACT,””A WAR CRIME,” “NATO SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.” THEY ARE ALSO GIVING THE OFFICIAL DEATH TOLL WHICH NOW STANDS AT 72 CIVILIANS KILLED. THEY ARE ALSO GIVING REPORTS OF FURTHER ATTACKS OVERNIGHT ON TARGETS AROUND THE COUNTRY — INCLUDING A BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER DANUBE NEAR THE INDUSTRIAL TOWN OF SMEDEREVO AND ALSO AN ATTACK ON THE NORTHERN TOWN OF SUBOTICA.

/// END OPT /

ANNCR: FINALLY, GUY, IS THERE ANY REACTION YOU CAN GAUGE AMONG THE YOUNG SERBIANS THERE IN YUGOSLAVIA, WHO MAY BE FACING MILITARY DUTY IF A GROUND OFFENSIVE WERE TO BE LAUNCHED?

DINMORE: WELL INDEED, SOME OF MY FRIENDS HAVE BEEN CALLED UP. THEY HAVE OBEYED THE SUMMONS. THEY ARE NOW IN UNIFORM. I DON’T KNOW WHERE SOME OF THEM ARE NOW. I HAVE HEARD STORIES OF A FEW PEOPLE WHO ARE TOO AFRAID TO GO KOSOVO AND ARE IN HIDING. BUT OUR EVIDENCE, FROM WHAT WE SAW IN KOSOVO — HUNDREDS OF MEN OF ALL AGES IN UNIFORM, I THINK THERE IS A MASS MOBILIZATION GOING ON. AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE ARE, INDEED, PUTTING ON THEIR UNIFORMS.

ANNCR: WELL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
16-Apr-99 2:26 PM EDT (1826 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America

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