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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 13:36 GMT

World: Europe

Nato targets Serb military

Bound for Yugoslavia: British forces prepare a laser-guided bomb

Nato says it is stepping up attacks on targets in Kosovo amid reports of atrocities against the Albanian population in the province.

Kosovo: Special Report
The alliance has expressed extreme alarm at unconfirmed reports of attacks by Serbs on the Albanians in retaliation for Nato air strikes on Yugoslavia.

During a third night of raids over the crisis in Kosovo, around 40% of Nato targets were inside the province itself, according to a Pentagon spokesman - double the percentage in the previous two days' strikes.

Nato forces also inflicted a sustained overnight attack on the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade.

However, officials said the air operations were hampered by bad weather, which severely restricted manned flights, meaning action focused on cruise missiles.

BBC Defence Correspondent Mark Laity says that the weather deteriorated overnight, and it now looks as though poor weather is setting in.

Andy Tighe reports: "Strains in the Nato alliance are showing"
Poor weather prevented British Harrier jets based in Italy from attacking Serbian targets on Friday, according to a Royal Air Force spokesman. Nato later said that all warplanes had returned safely to their bases after the latest offensive.

No official casualty figures have been released for the three days of bombardments, but Russia's RIA news agency on Friday, quoted Yugoslav figures showing that more than 100 civilians and 30 soldiers had been killed.

Nato's race against time

John Simpson reports on a distrubed night in Belgrade
At least half-a-dozen explosions were reported late on Friday in Kosovo's capital Pristina.

Other air raids were said to have targeted the Kosovo towns of Gujilane, south-east of Pristina, Prizren and Djakovica, and the southern fringe of the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica where a military airfield is located.

Our defence correspondent reports that Nato says initial assessments of its bombings are satisfactory but acknowledges that they are not yet having a significant impact on the Serb offensive in Kosovo, although police and military headquarters in the province are reported to have been hit.

[ image: Cruise missiles were launched in the first daylight attack]
Cruise missiles were launched in the first daylight attack
Nato is now in a race against time, both to strike Serb forces attacking the Kosovo Albanians and produce results before pressure grows to end air strikes, according to our correspondent.


The alliance says there is growing evidence of atrocities in Kosovo and has pledged to pursue war criminals in Serbia.

Spokesman Jamie Shea said: "There is mounting evidence from a number of different sources now that terrible things are happening in Kosovo.

"They (Serb forces) are simply attacking Albanians for the sake of killing Albanians, including intellectuals."

[ image: Protests against Nato attacks were continuing around the world]
Protests against Nato attacks were continuing around the world
A prominent Kosovo Albanian human rights lawyer, Bajram Kelmendi, and his two sons were found shot dead at a roadside in Pristina, a day after they were reported kidnapped.

Sources close to the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were reported as saying on Saturday that Serb paramilitary gangs had slaughtered several hundred Kosovo Albanians in the southern city of Djakovica overnight after Nato bombed a local barracks.

The sources told the Reuters news agency that about 70 bodies were found in two houses, but that hundreds of people were killed throughout the town.

Alan Little on the build-up to the current crisis
The KLA has also said that fighting had continued throughout the province on Friday, claiming more than 30 had been killed in "mass executions," - including 20 in Orahovac and 10 in Podujevo. However Serbian officials said the KLA had stepped up its attacks on Serb forces in Kosovo.

Reports from the province, quoting residents and aid workers, have also spoken of people being rounded up and shot and of widespread looting and burning of buildings.

There was no independent means of checking the reports independently. Most foreign journalists were ordered out of the country on Thursday, and international monitors left the province before the bombings began.


Britain, alongside the US, has expressed alarm at the reports of atrocities in Kosovo. Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson, said the aim of the air raids was to "degrade the capacity of President Milosevic to do this over a longer period".

But he admitted: "Of course we cannot take out every Serbian soldier who may be acting like a terrorist in the hills.

"What we can do is to take out their supply depots, take out the factories that produce these facilities, take out the lines of communication," he told the BBC.

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