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Belgrade Residents Survey Ruins

April 3, 1999

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ As daylight shone over Yugoslavia’s capital and air raid sirens sounded the all-clear, shocked residents drifted today to the charred buildings battered in NATO’s first airstrike on downtown Belgrade.

Missiles targeted the Serbian police headquarters and the nearby Federal Ministry of the Interior, with three explosions that rocked the capital an hour after midnight.

A nearby complex of hospitals, including a maternity clinic, was shaken but not hit. Serbian television showed footage of newborn babies and their mothers in an underground shelter.

``The cries of these babies are imprinted in my memory forever,″ said a tearful midwife. There were 70 babies in the maternity clinic at the time of the raid, officials said.

In the daylight, street cleaners and firefighters cleared debris from in front of the police headquarters, the sweep of their brooms and glass cracking underfoot the only sounds.

The front wing of the police headquarters had completely collapsed and smoke rose from the ruin in the upscale, tree-lined Kneza Milosa Boulevard. The country’s parliament building and Western embassies, including that of the United States, are located along the street.

The explosion smashed windows in administrative buildings leading to the police headquarters. The door and front windows of a street corner cafe had been blown out.

Trams and buses rolled through city streets, signaling a return to normalcy.

A few dozen residents walked over smashed glass, ignoring police and army cordons.

``Please go away, the area is not safe,″ a uniformed policeman at the scene told an inquisitive woman pushing her way past the guards for a closer look.

``Bloody Nazis,″ the woman said, spitting on the ground.

``We shall build and rebuild our Belgrade,″ Dragan Covic, head of the city’s air alert center, told a local television crew. ``But this heinous crime will never be forgotten.″

He said there were no casualties.

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