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Sunday, March 28, 1999 Published at 06:31 GMT

World: Europe

Downed Nato pilot rescued

The Pentagon has confirmed one of its planes has crashed

The US has confirmed that an F-117A Stealth fighter bomber has crashed while taking part in the Nato air strikes on Yugoslavia.

Kosovo: Special Report
But the Pentagon said the pilot had been rescued after bailing out of the plane before it crashed.

Spokesman Kenneth Bacon said he had no idea whether the pilot was injured but described him as "brave and heroic".

Mr Bacon said the Stealth plane had been on a bombing mission against Yugoslav targets when it came down but he said it was not clear why it had crashed.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon answers questions about the downing of the plane
Some reports suggest the plane was shot down by Yugoslav air defence systems.

Earlier, Serbia's RTS television station showed pictures of the burning wreckage of the US aircraft.

Mark Devenport reports from Washington
The BBC's Washington Correspondent, Mark Devenport, says the Pentagon took several hours to respond to the Serbian claims because they were awaiting the outcome of the search and rescue mission for the pilot.

Nato broadens campaign

Reports of the downed plane came soon after Nato forces were authorised to attack a broader range of targets in Yugoslavia.

Excerpt from Belgrade's RTS report on "downed" plane (in Serbian)
Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said the decision had been taken in the light of reports of atrocities and intimidation by Serbian forces in Kosovo.

"There is clearly a sense of urgency to move against those Yugoslav targets in and around Kosovo which are directly carrying out those offensive operations," he said.

Nato spokesman Jamie Shea explains the new strategy
Nato commanders may now order attacks on tanks and other military installations.

Up to now, the attacks have been aimed at Yugoslavia's air defence systems.

Riskier strategy

[ image: Nato forces were continuing to prepare their aircraft on Saturday]
Nato forces were continuing to prepare their aircraft on Saturday
BBC Defence Correspondent Mark Laity says Nato's decision involves risk, as Nato aircraft will have to fly lower to hit their targets.

Nato reaffirmed it was not at war with Yugoslavia, and said President Slobodan Milosevic could halt the air raids by agreeing to international demands on Kosovo.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has also pledged to increase Britain's air power contribution to the Nato air strikes.

Refugee exodus

As many as 30,000 refugees are believed to be stranded without shelter inside Kosovo, with thousands more crossing into neighbouring Albania and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

Bridget Kendall: New urgency to Nato's campaign
Refugees crossing into Macedonia painted a consistent picture of atrocities by the Yugoslav army and the Serbian special police force, according to BBC Correspondent Clarence Mitchell.

Four days of bombing

The decision to step up the campaign against Yugoslavia came at the end of the fourth day of air strikes against Yugoslav targets.

[ image:  ]
Air raid sirens were again reported in the capital Belgrade on Sunday at 0805 local time (0605 GMT) on Sunday.

A previous alert, sounded at 0405 local time, lasted about an hour before the all-clear was given.

There were further powerful explosions early on Sunday morning in the town of Cacak, about 150km (90 miles) south-west of Belgrade, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported.

Saturday night's bombing had been concentrated on Belgrade itself, with several heavy explosions reported in the capital.

'KLA steps up attacks'

Serbian officials said the KLA had stepped up its attacks on Serb forces in Kosovo.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said on state television that Nato's "despotism" must be resisted.

President Milosevic described Nato's military campaign as the worst threat to peace since the end of World War II.

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