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Thursday, April 15, 1999 Published at 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK

World: Europe

The Nato pilot's story

"A tragic accident" - but Nato says it will continue to bomb

The Nato pilot who bombed and killed refugees after mistaking their vehicles for Serb military units has explained how and why he carried out the attack.

Kosovo: Special Report
In a recorded debriefing, the unidentified airman said he became convinced the vehicles he attacked were Yugoslav forces systematically burning house after house and forcing the Kosovo Albanians from their villages.

Operating with a wing-man, the F-16 pilot made several passes over a convoy near Djakovica.

After identifying more than 60 vehicles, he spotted a further three "uniform shaped dark green vehicles".

"I work my way back up to the road and saw another house that had just been set ablaze and a three-vehicle convoy moving south-east about a click (kilometre) from the freshest burning house," he said.

The unidentified US pilot explains his actions
"They come to a stop at the next house down the road.

"I am convinced now the VJ and MUF (army and military police) forces are working their way down towards Djakovica and the refugees and are preparing to set this next house on fire."

Activating targeting equipment, the pilot said he made several passes over the vehicles "to ensure that they are in fact military vehicles".

[ image: Error of judgement: But Nato says refugees still back action]
Error of judgement: But Nato says refugees still back action
"I roll in on two passes to get a close look both with my eyeballs and my targeting pod," he said

"I make a decision at that point that these are the people responsible for burning down the villages that I have seen so far.

"I roll in, put my system on the lead vehicle and execute a laser-guided bomb attack on that vehicle destroying the lead vehicle."

He said that the aircraft were then low on fuel and had to pull out of the area.

He then described how he passed on the target co-ordinates and a general description of the vehicles to another pilot who then also attacked.

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