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Saturday, May 15, 1999 Published at 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK


Crack troops prepare for Kosovo

The RAF Tornados are adding to reinforcements

Britain is preparing another 2,300 troops for possible deployment in the Balkans.

Kosovo: Special Report
The troops include 679 soldiers from the Parachute Regiment based at Aldershot and another 680 troops from the Royal Gurkhas.

The UK is also sending another 12 RAF Tornados from their base at Bruggen in Germany to be based in Corsica where they will be nearer their targets.

Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said: "It is prudent planning for the successful end to the air campaign."

Doug Henderson: "We have allocated more resources to the task"
There are currently 47 RAF aircraft and 6,300 UK troops involved in the crisis, which has been running for seven-and-a-half weeks.

Most of the troops were originally sent to Macedonia as the vanguard of a peacekeeping force in neighbouring Kosovo, but some have been diverted to Albania to help set up camps for refugees from the war in the Yugoslav province.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said Britain had pledged at the outset some 8,000 troops to a Kosovo peacekeeping force.

The BBC's Rachael Payne: "The village that was bombed was described as utter devastation"
Mr Henderson's announcement meant "we will train up the rest and get them ready, so when the time is right, they can go in immediately to reinforce the guys that are there".

Mr Henderson said Friday's Nato attack on the Kosovo village of Korisa, which the Serbs claim killed scores of civilians, was aimed at a military target. Reiterating Nato's earlier statement, he said he "deeply regretted" the incident.

[ image: Kosovo Albanians embrace before leaving for another camp in Albania]
Kosovo Albanians embrace before leaving for another camp in Albania
He said: "Nato only attacks military targets.

"If there is any doubt that civilians are at risk, planes move away without dropping their weapons. They are still working on those tight guidelines."

Admiral Sir Peter Abbott said Friday's bombing campaign saw "intensive activities" with almost 600 sorties flown against "strategic and tactical targets".

Brits in Balkans
Sites hit included five bridges, two radio relay sites, several army barracks and an ammunition depot, he said.

Mr Henderson defended Nato's strategy, saying that anyone who felt it was "not wise" may change their minds if they met the refugees.

"I saw children in the Brazde camp in Macedonia," he said.

The BBC's Nick Childs: "Nato is insisting it attacked what it said was a known military command post"
"They were chanting 'Nato, Nato'. Nato is their team, and they know their whole future depends on Nato."

He also said he spoke to a grandmother at the camp who said she wept as she described the shooting of five young men by Serb troops after they refused to leave their village.

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15 May 99 | Europe
Nato regrets civilian deaths

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Statement by Nato spokesman on the Korisa incident [15 May '99] - Nato

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