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Thursday, March 25, 1999 Published at 03:57 GMT


World: Europe

Nato bombs Serbia

Onslaught: USS Philippine Sea launches a cruise missile

 Click here for live coverage

Nato planes have returned to base after the first wave of air strikes against Serbia, fulfilling the West's threat to strike over the Kosovo crisis.
Kosovo: Special Report

Despite Serb news reports that one alliance aircraft had been downed over Kosovo, the Pentagon said that all planes appear to have returned safely.

They added that there was "high confidence" that at least one Yugoslav MiG-29 fighter was shot down in air-to-air combat.


Jeremy Cooke reports from Belgrade as first wave of strikes end
The first wave of attacks came as Nato acted after final diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the conflict-torn region failed.

US defence officials said the attacks, the first against a sovereign country in Nato's 50-year history, began with air and sea-launched cruise missiles.


The BBC's Brian Hanrahan: "The first blow from Nato was fierce"
Attacks were also carried out by batwing B-2 stealth bombers, the first time the aircraft have been used in combat.

The Yugoslav news agency Tanjug is reporting that the country has declared a "state of war" against Nato.


[ image:  ]
The many threats against President Milosevic were finally acted on with explosions first heard at about 1900 GMT.

Russia's President Boris Yeltsin, opposed to the action, has recalled the country's representative at Nato's Brussels headquarters.

He has also ordered a halt to all co-operation with the alliance.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that Nato's actions were a violation of international law. The meeting ended without members passing a resolution.

Damage reports

BBC Correspondents and news agencies have reported explosions in Serbia and Montenegro including:

  • Suspected strikes against the large Batajnica military air base near Belgrade.
  • Strikes against an aircraft factory near the capital.
  • At least three explosions at Novi Sad, north of Belgrade.
  • Hits against the Zastava weapons plant in Kragujevac.

Correspondents in the Kosovo capital Pristina report:

  • Large explosions shortly before 1900 GMT.
  • A loss of lighting and power in the capital.
  • Repeated soundings of air raid sirens and explosions near a military air field.

In its first reports, Tanjug say that some family members of government forces have been killed.


Jacky Rowland in Pristina: "It's dark. Everyone feels they have lost control of their lives."
The agency also reported that seven Serbian towns had been hit in the first wave of Nato attacks.

The frequency of attacks slowed later in the evening and an all-clear was sounded in Belgrade at just before midnight local time.

An hour later the air raid siren was sounded again. Further explosions have been heard in Pristina.

The main Serb television channel showed pictures of what appeared to be a missile in flight and burning buildings. During the evening it showed a Second World War film.

During the evening, up to 20 journalists were arrested by Serbian police as they tried to film the attacks from the roof of a Belgrade hotel. Two BBC staff are be among the number detained.

'Full blown crisis'

Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana announced the beginning of the operation which is expected to pave the way for huge bombing raids on Serb targets by up to 400 Nato warplanes.


[ image:  ]
Hours earlier, eight American B-52 bombers, armed with cruise missiles, left from an airbase in England.

Four German Tornado jets provided cover for attacking aircraft, flying with the UK's RAF, the first time the country's military has been involved in combat in foreign territory since the Second World War.

Speaking shortly after the announcement of the attacks, President Bill Clinton said: ''Kosovo's crisis is now full blown,'' he said. ''If we don't act clearly it will get even worse.

"Only firmness now can prevent greater catastrophe later.''


Kate Adie watched the missiles launch from a US warship
Military observers predicted that the warplanes would meet a stiffer challenge than air missions over Iraq.

Yugoslavia was placed on high alert after the government declared a state of emergency, including setting up air-raid shelters.

Thousands of Kosovo Albanians have been fleeing the latest Serb-led offensive, heading south into the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

Defiant Serbs

On Wednesday afternoon, Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic called on his people to be prepared to defend their country "by all means".

In a nationally televised address he warned them that "at stake is the freedom of the entire country".

"We shall defend the country if it is attacked," he said.

But blaming Yugoslav Government "intransigence", the Nato secretary-general has said Nato's quarrel was not with the Yugoslav people.



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Internet Links


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