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Friday, April 16, 1999 Published at 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK


World: Europe

Confusion over refugee bombings



Confusion continues to surround the reported bombing of three separate convoys in southern Kosovo on Wednesday.

Kosovo: Special Report
Nato has confirmed a single, laser-targeted bomb hit one civilian target in a convoy travelling north of Djakovica on Wednesday.

Serbian officials in Pristina say the incident took place near Meja, adjacent to Djakovica, and claimed more than 60 civilian lives.


[ image:  ]
But Nato's account is confusing because the unnamed F-16 pilot responsible for the attack said he dropped one bomb, and then said a second pilot attacked the same target, once again, using a laser-guided weapon.

It has not been explained how this description of events falls in with the alliance's statement that only one bomb was dropped.


The BBC's Nicholas Witchell: "Damage in this video not consistent with Serb accounts"
Nato spokesman Jamie Shea did however confirm on Friday that Nato was only accepting responsibility for the attack north of Djakovica, pending further investigation.

Mr Shea said there was no new information. A video of the attack on the refugee convoy would not be made public until Nato had finished its investigation, he added.

In a second alleged Nato attack, bombs dropped between Djakovica and Prizren to the south are said to have killed six and wounded 11.


[ image:  ]
Further doubt has been cast on events by refugee claims that Yugoslav Air Force jets were involved in attacks in the area.

And in a third report, refugees said they saw a convoy bombed between Prizren and the town of Morini.

This attack remains unconfirmed by either Nato or the Yugoslav authorities.

'Scepticism' about Serb claims

Yugoslav television has been showing pictures of two separate scenes of what they say are attacks on refugee convoys. One shows a column of destroyed vehicles on a tarmac road and the other on a dirt track.

It was not made clear where either site was located.

But the alliance has repeatedly cast doubt on the authenticity of many Serb claims.


[ image:  ]
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Mr Shea said: "Obviously Nato is not going to take responsibility for all of the accounts coming out of Belgrade of large numbers of people who have been killed or all these incidents having occurred in different geographical locations."

Journalists taken by Serbian authorities to the scene of one alleged site, between Prizren and Djakovica, were shown evidence of air strikes but say it is impossible to judge the authenticity of Serb claims.

BBC correspondent Michael Williams, who visited the area between Prizren and Djakovica, said that he had seen the bodies of refugees and four impact craters - suggesting four bombs had ben dropped.

This tallies with eyewitness accounts suggesting more than one bomb was dropped on the convoy.

He said there was no evidence of military vehicles, but that 36 hours had elapsed since the bombing raids allowing plenty of time for the scene to be "doctored".

Observers suggest that as the air war progresses and without independent confirmation on the ground, what actually happened in each of the three incidents may never be known.





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