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The BBC's Nick Miles
"To the Nato pilot this was just another routine target"
 real 28k

Sunday, 9 April, 2000, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
CIA sacking over embassy attack
Chinese embassy in Belgrade
Five laser-guided missiles slammed into the embassy
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has sacked an agent it blames for incorrectly targeting the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo war.

The bombing of the embassy in May last year caused severe strains between the United States and China.

Beijing rejected US assurances that the attack, in which three Chinese citizens were killed and at least 20 people were injured, had been a mistake.

American media reported that six other CIA employees received punishments ranging from verbal warnings to letters of reprimand.


Injured embassy employee
Three people died and at least 20 were injured in the bombing
The agents were not identified but The New York Times reported on Sunday that the dismissed employee was a mid-level officer whose targeting error allegedly led to the bombing.

The newspaper added that the other agents punished included a senior official and four supervisors.

Responsibility

The CIA said in a statement that "while we can never undo the mistakes that led to the bombing, we are satisfied that the CIA has stood up both organisationally and individually and taken appropriate responsibility for our mistakes."

Officials said several steps had been taken to address "organisational problems that contributed to the accidental bombing," but declined to discuss them, saying they were secret.

Members of the American Congress were briefed on Saturday about the disciplinary action.

US Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering met China's ambassador, Li Zhao Xing, to inform him of the CIA dismissal and reprimands, according to reports.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese.

The US last year agreed to pay China $28m compensation for the bombing, and a further $4.5m to the victims' relatives.

Internal reviews

The Washington Post quoted a CIA spokesman as saying internal reviews had concluded that intelligence officers meant to target a Yugoslav arms agency but marked the wrong building on a map and hit the embassy.

The spokesman was quoted as saying that "numerous CIA officers ... failed to ensure that the intended bombing target ... had been properly identified and precisely located".


Angry Chinese took to the streets
Angry Chinese took to the streets in Beijing to protest against America
It emerged last year that the US National Imagery and Mapping Agency, part of the intelligence community, contributed to the bombing of the embassy by providing an outdated map.

Roy W Krieger, a lawyer representing one of the supervisors punished, said it was "manifestly unjust" to blame individuals when "the failure was systemic".

"It's shameful that the CIA caved in to political pressure to provide scapegoats," Mr Krieger said.

It is not clear why the CIA waited almost an year to punish the agents it believes were responsible for the bombing.

British newspaper reports have suggested that the embassy was deliberately targeted, because it was allegedly helping Yugoslav commanders transmit signals to their forces in the field.

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Kosovo: One year on
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Key stories:
Nato's incomplete victory
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Serbs fear new war
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An Uneasy Peace
Talking Point
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Asia-Pacific Contents

Country profiles
See also:

08 May 99 | Europe
Embassy strike 'a mistake'
08 May 99 | Europe
Picture gallery: Embassy bombed
18 Jun 99 | Asia-Pacific
China rejects US apology
16 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
US agrees embassy compensation
28 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
US-China military ties 'on track'
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