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Thursday, April 22, 1999 Published at 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK


Mixed success for RAF Harriers

Harrier GR7 ready for take-off from Gioia del Colle airbase

RAF Harrier jets have had a mixed day thanks to continued poor weather - but they did hit Serb forces in Kosovo, according to an RAF spokesman on Thursday.

Kosovo: Special Report
The Harrier GR7s, based at Gioia del Colle airbase in southern Italy, struck an enemy headquarters north of the Kosovo capital, Pristina, said Group Captain Glenn Edge.

As part of "continued offensive air operations against [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosovic's military machine", the planes dropped cluster bombs on the headquarters, guiding them through cloud using the Harrier's sophisticated weapons systems, he said.

The planes involved in the attack reported no anti-aircraft fire or surface-to-air missiles and all returned safely to base, he said.

Cloud cover

Group Captain Edge said further raids were also launched against other targets during the day, but cloudy weather prevented Harrier pilots carrying out their attacks and they returned to the base without dropping their bombs.

Brits in Balkans
Weather forecasts for the region continue to be poor, bringing the prospect of continued mixed successes for No 1 Squadron, whose Harriers have been launching the Nato raids for almost one month.

Earlier, Nato's Chief of Joint Operations, Sir Ian Garnett, told a briefing that attacks against tanks, artillery and vehicles had been less successful than those against static targets, but the arrival of US Apache helicopters in Albania would change all this.

[ image: A Sea Harrier returns to HMS Invincible]
A Sea Harrier returns to HMS Invincible
"Overall the campaign is proceeding steadily but it is one of attrition," he said.

"The weight of attack is far greater now than it was in the first days of the campaign and it will increase.

"If I were in the VJ (the Yugoslav army) I would be increasingly worried. We are in this for the long haul."

Prime Minister Tony Blair is now in Washington ahead of Nato's 50th anniversary this weekend.

Kosovo - Military hardware
After a two-hour meeting with President Clinton he defended his comments that sending ground troops into Kosovo could not be ruled out.

But he made it clear that they would only go in to protect refugees, not to attack the Serb army.

Pentagon spokesman Kevin Bacon also insisted that Wednesday's bombing of a house owned by President Milosevic was not an assassination attempt.

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