|Updated: 16 April 1999||Press Conferences|
by Jamie Shea and Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani(Presentation )
General Marani: Good Afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to cover NATO activity in the last 24 hours. The weather was much better during the day which enabled NATO aircraft to carry out extensive engagements against fielded forces in Kosovo. The map indicates the main areas of these attacks. Several tanks and artillery sites were destroyed and an SA6 site was also hit.
Here is a hit on a straight flush radar associated with SA6 to the west of Belgrade. The second clip shows a similar attack against an SA6 command vehicle in the same area. Strategic targets were also engaged, as indicated on this map. Podgorica Airfield in Montenegro was extensively targeted as the aircraft on that base posed an increasing threat on NATO forces building up in Albania. Attacks also continued against petroleum facilities supply routes and army and special police headquarters. There were attacks against an ammunition plant in Paracin, a corps command post in Rakovica and a tactical reporting post near Subotika.
The video shows an attack against a MiG 21 which took place yesterday at Pristina Airfield. There was no evidence of Yugoslav aircraft activity. Air-to-air artillery and a variety of surface-to-air missiles were fired against NATO aircraft. None of these attacks were successful.
On the ground in Kosovo, Yugoslav Army and Special Police activity continued in the areas shown on this map. The main area of activity continues to be in the west, near the Albanian border. Once again there was cross-border artillery action in the region of Tropoje and Kukes.
NATO military forces continue intensified air strikes against forces in Kosovo, as well as against strategic targets, fixed installations and fielded forces in a systematic well planned manner designed to degrade the FRY forces' capability to carry out their scorched earth tactics. All of our aircraft have returned safely.
NATO is resolved to continue operations until our key objectives have been achieved.
Jamie Shea: OK General, thank you very much indeed. Ladies and gentlemen, as General Marani has made abundantly clear, the mission continues.
Yesterday I expressed NATO's regret for the tragic accident that occurred on Wednesday, but NATO puts its set-backs behind it and this is what we have done and are going to continue to do. We are not going to be blown off course. We are keeping our eye on the main issue which is that Milosevic has to be stopped. NATO of course is not a perfect organisation, but that doesn't make it any less necessary to persevere until such time as we have managed to bring peace to Kosovo.
You saw on your television screens yesterday evening a large number of interviews with Kosovar Albanian refugees and Kosovar Albanian leaders, all making it clear that despite Wednesday's accident they want NATO to continue, and of course we are going to do exactly that. As we say in football terms, we are keeping our eye on the ball.
As General Marani also said, last night we had some notable successes, in fact it was one of the best nights thus far in our campaign. He has listed the radars, the control vehicles, the numbers of tanks and artillery, the MiG 21s at Pristina Airfield, the heavy damage to surface-to-air missile sites, to radars and to an ammunition depot in Pristina that we were able to inflict.
At the same time, it is clear that life is becoming increasingly unpleasant for the Serb forces inside Kosovo. Not only do they have to contend with an increased momentum of NATO attacks in which they are now starting to sustain serious losses, but they are also being harassed in a way that they probably did not expect by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Like a phoenix which rises from the ashes, the Kosovo Liberation Army is able to mount a number of attacks still inside Kosovo. And of course as NATO depletes the assets of the Serb Armed Forces, there will be more and more scope for those attacks by the Kosovo Liberation Army to be stepped up with greater effectiveness.
So the Serb Armed Forces are in something of a vice and that vice will tighten as the days progress. In fact the Yugoslav Army, despite having spent the best part of a year trying to crack down in Kosovo, deploying more and more of its forces inside the province in order to defeat the UCK, is now in the ironic position of being forced to step up, not step down, to step up its counter-insurgency operations against the UCK, and of course every operation simply produces 1,000 more recruits of embittered radicalised Kosovar Albanians into the ranks of the KLA. If ever there was a counter-productive strategy, this is it.
So the Serbs are feeling the pressure and we have no intention of letting up. We are shaping the environment with our air campaign to be in a position where eventually, and hopefully sooner rather than later, we will be able to grind the deployed Yugoslav Army and Special Police Forces inside Kosovo into pieces.
On the humanitarian front we have also seen in the last 24 hours a new flow of forced deportations into Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In fact yesterday 4,623 refugees entered Albania and 7,000 to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In fact in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the local authorities believe that between 6 - 10,000 refugees may be preparing to enter over the next few days.
It is very clear, and you see this on your TV screens every evening, that the refugees arriving at the borders have suffered harsh treatment and abuse. Many of them have endured long journeys, some have reported having been hiding in the woods for the best part of a month before finally being able to leave. Many are traumatised and are going to require psychological as well as physical care after what they have suffered. They arrive, in virtually every case, exhausted and dehydrated.
Now in order to cope with what could be a new flow of refugees, the latest chapter in Milosevic's ethnic cleansing, the NATO forces are also stepping up their operations in these neighbouring states. Today in Albania the main body of the headquarters of the Ace Mobile Force is due to arrive and the troops, the NATO forces, in Albania which have been deployed hithertofor on a national basis, will come under the operational command of General Reith on 17 April, I believe that is tomorrow.
At the same time at SHAPE today there is a force balancing conference to provide the remaining assets, essentially engineers, medical aides and the rest, logisticians, to this force which as you know has a humanitarian purpose, and these soldiers are setting up now in Tirana and they are helping to operate a helicopter shuttle with essential food and medical supplies up to the border at Kukes where still 100,000 refugees are located, many of them with no shelter yet. One of the most essential and urgent tasks is to counter the threat of disease to these refugees by carrying out a mass programme of vaccinations and the NATO forces will be delivering an additional 11,000 tents over the next few hours.
In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the forces under General Jackson are of course now on the alert to be ready to help the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to deal with the new inflow. In this respect the handover to the international relief organisations by NATO forces of some of the refugee camps has been postponed by a few days while we continue to address the situation, particularly improving some of the sanitation facilities in those camps, and the NATO forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to unload about 35 relief flights into Skopje every day.
So we are continuing to act on both fronts, which are essential for the final resolution of this crisis: on the military front we go on; and on the humanitarian front we go on as well, and that will be ultimately the recipe for success.
Stephen Dierx: Jamie, can you clear up the confusion with respect to the convoy incident, namely whether it took place south or north of Djakovica, and can you confirm that NATO has a picture taken by an unmanned plane indicating that indeed a tractor or the trailer was hit and there may be several victims because of scattered bodies that can be seen?
Jamie Shea: Steve, I am going to obviously defer to the General on this one, but what I can tell you is that we have confirmed that the incident took place north of Djakovica, I think the General will bear me out on that one, we have no information whatever on the extent of civilian casualties, it is very difficult to do that when you are trying to find out what is going on in a very unfree place, without international observes on the scene, and we have no other information really on that incident to share with you at the present time. We have told you what we know and we don't know anything more for the time being. General, do you have anything to add on that?
General Marani: No.
Charles: I am sorry, Jamie, we are going to have to push with this, we can't let you off with that. I know you want to put this set-back behind you, as you have said, but the simplest way to do this is going to be to try and share with us as much information as you have. We need to know about the four convoys which I understand were hit both north and south of Djakovica. What is it that NATO knows happened with those four convoys, what is the possible collateral damage, what are the possible civilian fatalities? The place that some 40 western journalists were taken to yesterday from Belgrade, is that somewhere that any NATO activity could have caused the sort of collateral damage that we are hearing from, which includes certainly at least ten dead and tractors on the road? I am afraid we have just got to push you on this and you have to share with us what you know.
General Marani: Yesterday we told you what we knew about the accident, north of the town, where we knew we could have hit civilian vehicles. As you can expect, in an air campaign we are attacking a number of targets. Convoys are military targets and can be attacked. What we know about our air attack we told you yesterday. For the rest we know nothing more than what I told you yesterday.
Charles: I am sorry, I just can't let that rest there. I find it absolutely impossible to believe that you know nothing about a six mile stretch of road with for some reason blown up tanks and bodies on that road. Whatever the cause, and I am not suggesting that it was caused by NATO, but I cannot believe that you do not know about it and what might have caused that.
General Marani: We know what we have done, what kind of activity we have performed and we are investigating our activity. This is what I can tell you now.
Jamie Shea: Charles, look, when we have more information we will share it with you. We have said that in one incidence we have conducted an investigation and we hit one civilian vehicle. Now that does not mean that you should presuppose that every other incidence of civilian vehicles is automatically to be laid at NATO's door, clearly not. There is only one incidence, one incidence, where we have any indication of damage to a civilian vehicle which could have resulted in civilian lives. As far as the rest of all of the operations are concerned we are satisfied that we struck military targets. If we have further information we will share it with you, but we cannot give you information that we do not have at the present time. Sometimes also, as you know, in these kind of situations it takes a while to establish the facts. Not every situation is one in which you can immediately have a complete and total picture, sometimes it is possible, in other times it isn't. As I have said before, if Kosovo was the type of place where Milosevic would allow international organisations, international observers to roam freely, if he would allow the foreign press to operate freely and to go where they like, without being escorted back and forth to the various locations, it would be much easier for everybody to ascertain the facts in this situation. We are, as you know, operating from the air and it sometimes takes time, particularly on the basis of purely aerial observation material, to establish the exact parameters of the situation. But we have on this particular incidence only indications in one situation, in one situation, which was the one described to you yesterday by the General of where we would have hit a civilian vehicle. For the others I think you should seek your explanation in Belgrade, as much as you should at NATO headquarters and I hope you will do so.
Dag: Can you deny that NATO was responsible for the incident, or incidents, which have been shown on Serbian television and to which western correspondents were invited to go and look at that, headless bodies and so on, which appeared to have occurred on the road between Djakovica and Prizren, can you deny that
Jamie Shea: Dag, I have no indication at the present time that NATO was responsible for any other damage to a civilian vehicle than the incident north of Djakovica described to you yesterday.
Dag: But was it the one that is being shown, for which you are being blamed?
Jamie Shea: Well I do not accept any blame for any other incident except the one which we were able to investigage north of Djakovica and which we outlined to you yesterday.
George: I understand that it is a political question to decide to reduce the altitude which would enable the pilots to avoid this kind of incident. I wonder if any kind of thinking has begun, or any discussion, to make this kind of decision or not yet?
General Marani: Tactical employment of aircraft doesn't have anything to do with politics. Of course we have already started to review our tactics to see if we can improve the capability of identifying targets and at the same time reduce the possibility to have another accident in the future like the one we had.
Nick: You have been speaking a lot recently about the activity of the KLA. Does NATO support politically and/or militarily in hardware the KLA? And General, for those of us here who are not defence experts, can you explain with the missiles and the bombs that are being used at the moment in this area that we have been discussing for the past few days, can you tell us a bit about the payload, what is in there and what actually happens when one of these things explodes?
Jamie Shea: No, we don't have any political contacts with the Kosovo Liberation Army, as is well known, and we do not of course supply them arms either, although obviously they seem to get their arms from somewhere, but that is their own business, that is not the business of NATO. All I was doing was simply pointing out that the type of repression that we see in Kosovo almost in every instance provokes the type of counter that we have seen from the UCK, that despite all of the attempts, extremely brutal attempts by the Yugoslav Army to extirpate the UCK, it doesn't seem to be happening. And I was just pointing out that as the Serb forces become weaker in Kosovo, I believe that the UCK in usual guerrilla fashion will become more effective and that will make life for the paramilitary forces and the army even more unpleasant than it is already and perhaps that is a factor that President Milosevic should weigh a little bit more than he seems to do at the moment.
General Marani: I know you don't want me to go over all the weapon inventory of the NATO aircraft, what I can say is of course apart from the K-launch of different size, 20, 30 mm, 27 mm, we use both 500, 1,000, 2,000 lbs, of which 50 - 60% is high explosive, then there are rockets, guided and unguided. Normally you would expect 30% of a rocket being warhead, they can be guided with laser, with TV, with infrared or also other systems with precision on a specific place, it can be tossed, it can be dropped, it can be launched. For instance a bomb hitting a terrain, you would expect a 3 x 20 foot hole, 3 feet deep, 20 feet diameter from a 500 lb bomb. Of course using bigger bombs the hole is bigger.
Thank you, Jamie, I have a question for the General.