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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Ministers accused of bombing cover-up
British bomber
The success of RAF bombing raids are under question
A furious row has erupted over accusations that the government tried to cover up information showing most bombs dropped in the Kosovo war missed their targets.

Conservatives accused ministers of misleading the public after an investigation showed some bombs achieved a hit rate of only 2%.

We have been calling for an inquiry for over a year, which the government have rejected... because they wanted to cover up the truth

Tory Iain Duncan Smith
And they piled further pressure on the government by repeating calls for an independent inquiry.

But Downing Street issued a denial of reports that a D-Notice was issued in an attempt to stop the details being made public.

The joint investigation by the BBC and industry magazine Flight International revealed as many as 31% of cluster bombs, blamed for large numbers of civilian casualties, missed their targets and the much-vaunted laser-guided smart bombs also achieved only a 66% strike rate.

The information indicates that collateral damage, civilian casualties and damage to property might have been worse than previously thought, because RAF pilots were flying at a high altitude.

'Questions to answer'

Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the leaked information showed the need for an independent inquiry into the Kosovo campaign and accused the government of trying to hide the truth.

Paveway II bomb
One-third of laser-guided bombs missed the targets, the report says
"We have been calling for an inquiry for over a year, which the government have rejected. Now it is clear why this is the case - it is because they wanted to cover up the truth," he said.

"Serious questions must be answered, such as why so few targets were hit, why so few missions were flown in first few weeks of the campaign, and did politicians intervene to stop the RAF and other air forces from operating as they needed to?

"In February, the government told the press that the Kosovo compaign was the most accurate bombing ever conducted by the RAF, which was in marked contrast to reports in the media.

"Now we know that the actual statistics - delivered to defence chiefs in secret - show a very different picture."

'No D-Notices'

Armed Forces Minister John Spellar denied the public had been lied to over the campaign's success rate and that the government had tried to cover up the report.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that figures showing the number of bombs which hit their targets did not include bombs which were unaccounted for.

Downing Street also stressed that the accuracy figures related to hits which pilots were able to confirm.

Overall, this was one of the most accurate campaigns in the RAF's history

Downing Street spokesman
"There were more hits than that. These were the ones they could verify with their own eyes," a spokesman said.

"Overall, this was one of the most accurate campaigns in the RAF's history.

"Nobody would expect 100% accuracy. This is not a video game, this war."

The spokesman confirmed that the D-Notice committee had asked to see the report, but said it had concluded that there was nothing in it which could jeopardise national security.

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Kosovo: One year on
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Key stories:
Nato's incomplete victory
The view from Kosovo
Serbs fear new war
Nato strikes: The untold story
An Uneasy Peace
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