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Relief Convoy Said Hit in Kosovo

May 5, 1999

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A relief convoy from the Greek branch of Doctors of the World was hit by a bomb inside Kosovo today while en route from Macedonia to Kosovo’s capital, the humanitarian group said.

No injuries were reported but the group was shaken up by the attack, which occurred the same day two American pilots flying an Apache helicopter were killed in a crash during a nighttime NATO training mission in northeastern Albania.

Three trucks and a jeep carrying medicine to a Pristina hospital were traveling near Djeneral Jankovic at about noon when the relief convoy was attacked. A NATO military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Walter Jertz, denied allied forces had hit the aid convoy.

Yugoslavia’s state-run Tanjug news agency, however, said NATO attacked the convoy near Urosevac, 25 miles south of Pristina.

Calling it a ``clear target for NATO,″ Tanjug said the trucks had been cleared in advance and were clearly marked as a humanitarian convoy.

Greece’s press attache in Belgrade, Spyros Hadjaras, told Athens’ Antenna radio that ``an airplane of unknown nationality ... let a bomb go while the convoy was coming around a turn, and this bomb fell around 100 meters, 150 meters (100 to 150 yards) from the first truck.″

A representative for Doctors of the World, Panagiotis Papanastasiou, speaking from Athens, said the three drivers and a Greek neurosurgeon ``are all fine. They arrived at the hospital in Pristina. They were hit, but we are not sure if they were hit from the ground or from the air.″

The convoy left Greece on Tuesday and entered Kosovo today. The group has been supplying medical aid to Pristina in recent weeks.

President Clinton, speaking to U.S. troops at an air base in Germany, lamented the loss of ``two brave Americans,″ the first Americans killed in NATO’s 6-week-old air campaign against Yugoslavia.

Clinton lashed out at Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for driving Kosovo’s 1.8 million ethnic Albanians out of the southern Serb province, saying a population the size of the state of Nebraska had been ``kicked out of house and home without warning at gunpoint.″

Speaking to a cheering crowd at a base in Spangdahlem, Germany, Clinton said Milosevic’s ``so-called ethnic cleansing ... is wrong. It is evil.″

Clinton went on to reiterate allied demands to Milosevic in his speech to American troops, home to the U.S Air Force division whose F-16s, A-10s and F-117 ``Nighthawk″ stealth fighters are flying NATO bombing raids over Yugoslavia.

``The Kosovars must be able to go home, safe and with self-government; the Serbian troops must be withdrawn, and instead there must be an international force with NATO at its core, but hopefully with many other nations participating, to keep the peace and protect all the people of Kosovo, Albanians and Serbs alike,″ Clinton said.

``We will continue to pursue this campaign,″ he said. ``We will intensify it in an unrelenting way until these objectives are met.″

A short while later, two NATO missiles were fired northeast of the central Serbian city of Nis, causing no injuries but a power line was destroyed, Tanjug reported.

NATO also struck at the Obrva military airport, 60 miles south of Belgrade. Attacks were also reported around Mount Kopaonik in central Serbia.

Clinton had flown to Germany following a stopover in Brussels to meet with American troops and some of the 675,000 ethnic Albanian refugees who have been forced out of Kosovo in the last month or so.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Air Force F-16 shot down a Yugoslav MiG-29 fighter jet in a dogfight 13,000 feet over Serbia near the Bosnian-Serb border, Pentagon officials said.

NATO insists that a well-armed international military force is the only way to guarantee safety of the refugees. Special Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin said at the United Nations that the nature and composition of the force remains the major hurdle toward a peaceful settlement.

Despite stepped-up diplomacy, NATO has insisted there will be no letup in the air campaign, which began March 24.

More than 7,000 ethnic Albanian refugees flooded into Albania on Tuesday, saying massacres and abuses by Yugoslav security forces were continuing on a wide scale.

The crush of refugees is getting so overwhelming around the Albanian border that U.N. aid officials said today they are considering closing down camps near the town of Kukes and moving thousands of refugees further south.

Fighting in Kosovo erupted in February 1998 when Milosevic sent thousands of troops in to crush the KLA, which is fighting for independence from Serbia, the main republic in Yugoslavia.

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