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Monday, March 29, 1999 Published at 00:15 GMT


Grounded plane dominates Serb media

State TV showed lengthy footage of the wreckage

Dramatic pictures of the burning wreckage of a Nato plane downed near Belgrade on Saturday evening have dominated Serbian state television reports on Sunday.

Kosovo: Special Report
Belgrade RTS TV led its news bulletins with lengthy footage of the blazing American F-117 Stealth fighter, showing close-ups of identifying features on the plane - including a clearly visible "Air Combat Command" insignia.

The Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug, quoting eyewitness reports, said the "Nato aggressor" plane was downed following a volley fired by the Yugoslav Army's air defence forces near the village of Budjanovci.

"Immediately after it was hit, the F-117 hovered in the air for 30 seconds, then turned into a large blazing fireball and, burning, fell to the ground in the vicinity of Budjanovci village.

"There is no information as yet about the pilot of the aggressor aircraft," Tanjug said.

'Two planes shot down'


[ image: Pictures of buildings said to have been damaged by Nato attacks]
Pictures of buildings said to have been damaged by Nato attacks
Belgrade's Beta news agency quoted a high-ranking Yugoslav Army officer as saying Army anti-air defence units had shot down not one but two F-117 fighters.

The officer added that although one of the main goals of the first phase of Nato's attacks on Yugoslavia was to destroy the Yugoslav Army's anti-air missile systems, these remained "practically intact". He said Yugoslav forces had refrained from using its air defences "since assessments and planning indicated that this trump card should be used in some later phase of the conflict".

Serbian state TV also broadcast footage of big fires which it said were the result of bombing by Nato planes overnight on Saturday in the suburbs of Belgrade and in the Kosovo capital Pristina.

Its correspondent in Pristina said that a Nato missile had exploded near the television building in the city.

"The other missiles went more to the east. A great fire followed a loud explosion caused by the missile hit, which spread to the surrounding houses," the correspondent said.

'Threat to media freedom'

"Since there is no military target or interior ministry facility in this part of Pristina, one can assume that the television building was the target, but that the missile missed it and flew over its target."

The TV denounced the strike as "an attack on the freedom of the media and the right to provide truthful information to the public" .

It said Nato was attempting "to conceal the truth about the destruction of civilian facilities and the killing of civilians in Kosovo" caused by its air strikes.

Belgrade suburb hit

Tanjug news agency reported that the Batajnica suburb of Belgrade was the main target of Nato air attacks early on Sunday morning.

Nato aircraft had also attacked other targets on the city's outskirts, but not as intensively.

"Right after entering Yugoslav airspace, the aggressor Nato aircraft immediately dropped their lethal cargo on military and civilian targets, and then for hours `patrolled' along the Yugoslav border, sporadically returning to Yugoslav airspace but not taking action.

"This 'game' by the criminal Western alliance kept the population in shelters and cellars for long hours," Tanjug said.

Open-air concert

On a somewhat lighter note, the independent Belgrade-based radio B-92 reported that despite the threat of air strikes, an open-air concert was taking place in the centre of Belgrade on Sunday.

The concert, taking place under the slogan 'Music Has Sustained Us' was being held at Republic Square. The square was said to be full of people even though an air-raid alert was still sounding.

People had come at the invitation of the Belgrade city assembly "to protest against the Nato aggression," a B-92 reporter said from the concert venue.

He pointed out that many people were wearing symbolic badges with the inscription 'Target' written on them.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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