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Thursday, April 8, 1999 Published at 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK

'I saw my town bombed' - UK Serb

Aleksinac: "A typical small town"

On 6 April, a Nato bomb "fell short" of its intended military target and hit the southern Serbian mining town of Aleksinac, killing several civilians.

Yugoslav authorities claimed 12 people had died, but Nato put the figure at five.

Kosovo: Special Report
A Nato investigation to establish what happened is underway - but UK resident Dr Vladica Trenkic says he feels betrayed by what has happened in his home town.

Aleksinac, says Dr Trenkic, a 31-year-old electrical engineer who lives near Nottingham, is a typical small town in Serbia. It has one church, and one main street - the korzo - in which people congregate in the evenings.

"Aleksinac is a place where everyone knows everyone else," he says. "There is a strong sense of community."

[ image: The korzo before the bombing]
The korzo before the bombing
He has lived in Britain for seven years, and last visited the town 18 months ago.

Every day since the start of the Nato campaign, Dr Trenkic has been monitoring the news for the latest information on bombing raids.

On Tuesday, his worst fears were realised when he telephoned his parents in Aleksinac, and they told him of the raid.

He said: "I saw the BBC footage, and with horror recognised the street that had been bombed - and then I saw the house number, number 60, the house where I spent my childhood."

[ image: 30 people are also thought to have been injured]
30 people are also thought to have been injured
Although his parents had since left that address, he was later to discover that the retired couple who had cared for him when he was a child were among the dead.

He said: "Jovan and Sofija were found after 20 hours in their house. They had been playing cards when the bombing happened. There were still cards in Jovan's hand when they removed his body.

"I was so angry when I saw the pictures. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Demonstrated againt the Milosevic regime

"These are innocent people being killed in the name of a man a lot of them do not support," he said.

"I and my friends were in the streets in Belgrade for two months demonstrating against the Milosevic regime. We were marching through the streets with British and American and German flags, cherishing democracy.

"Now they are bombing our cities. And now some people are burning their British flags.

[ image: The bomb fell in a residential area (picture from Serb media)]
The bomb fell in a residential area (picture from Serb media)
"There are people in Serbia who fought in both world wars alongside Britain. There are people who helped British pilots - and now British pilots are bombing them. They feel very hurt and betrayed."

He says the people of Serbia feel that they are also being subjected to a propaganda war.

He said: "I am very disappointed with the coverage of the bombing. The Serbs are being demonised, we are not being talked about like human beings - we are collateral damage.

"And while the bombing is shown for maybe a few seconds on the television, the Kosovan refugees are given several minutes."

[ image: Rescuing possessions: A picture of Aleksinas from the Serb media]
Rescuing possessions: A picture of Aleksinas from the Serb media
The people of Aleksinac, he says, are now getting used to life under the threat of bombardment.

"At first no-one thought that Aleksinac would be a target, so no-one bothered to shelter in the evenings. Now the streets are empty at night - it is becoming routine for people to go into their cellars in the evening.

"After all, they have lived through the whole of the Bosnian conflict, they are used to living in restrictive circumstances."

And this, he says, is where Nato has made an error of judgement. He says that President Milosevic will not be made to give in easily, and the people will be capable of sustaining the bombing campaign for a long time.

He said: "They are defeating themselves, as well as destroying Serbia. There were many people who did not support Milosevic, but now the country is uniting against their attackers."

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