Updated: 16 April 1999 Press Conferences


16 Apr. 1999

Press Conference

by Jamie Shea and Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani

(Presentation Photo)

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.

Questions & Answers

Pablo: Thank you, Jamie, I have a question for the General.

Coming back to the incident, you told us yesterday that the pilot of the F-16 used laser-guided bombs which I understood has an optical or some kind of camera installation. Do you plan to provide us with a video of the targeting or of the hit as you did in some other cases?

General Marani: In this case, as we've said before, we are investigating so for the time being the tape won't be provided.

Mark Laity (BBC): Could you provide us with details of some of the attacks which were south of Djakovica in the Prizren-Djakovica area? We know - and it has been publicly stated by the Pentagon - that there were attacks in several places in that highway so could you give us details of what you assess you hit and could you also explain to us why you will not provide video when you have had two days to look at it? It is not enough to say it is BDA, assessment ongoing. Why are you not providing the video and why are you not providing details of attacks which took place two days ago along a convoy road? We know this is the centre of a major incident, we know that you attacked, you know you attacked, you have told us, why will you not brief us on this matter?

General Marani: As I told you, we are investigating at the moment so we will not provide the material.

Jamie Shea: Mark, when we have all of the facts established, we will obviously continue to do what we have been doing from this podium for the last weeks which is provide all the information we have but today we don't have any new information on this incident so we will, if you like, have a raincheck on it until such time as we do. Our investigations go on, I can assure you of that.

Baudouin (Belgian): General, you told us there was one bomb that was wrongly dropped, you have probably also seen the pictures of Serb tv and the Western agencies. Can you, as a pilot, exclude perhaps that this was the result of only one bomb or not?

General Marani: I should have seen everything that the tv has shown to answer your question. Of course, the damage and the casualties that a bomb can produce depend on what is the target but in the incident we discussed yesterday, I wouldn't expect at all damage of that size.

Jamie Shea: And also, Baudouin, as you know, those Western tv teams went past, I understand, an enormous number of burning villages and decimated houses and I think that that is the real story of what's happening in Kosovo at the moment quite frankly with all due respect.

Jake Lynch (Sky News): What is NATO's estimate of the number of artillery sites and the number of ammunition depots the Yugoslav army has in Kosovo and what's your estimate of the number of each of those facilities that NATO has so far destroyed?

General Marani: I am afraid you are asking too much.

Jamie Shea: As they say at the State Department, Jake, we'll take that question which is to say that we'll see if we can provide the answer to you tomorrow on that.

Jonathan: Back to the incident on this road if we could look at it from the other point of view. You keep on hinting that the answer to some of what happened should be sought in Belgrade and there have been all sorts of hints from military sources and reports from Albanian refugees about possibly low-flying jets, about roads being mortared and so on. Is there anything from your intelligence information, the monitoring of Yugoslav aircraft taking off and so on, is there anything that would lend any credence to suggest that it wasn't NATO aircraft that did some of this but that it might have been Yugoslav aircraft?

Jamie Shea: Jonathan, we try the best way we can to deal with facts and of course, the facts have to apply to both sides - on our side but also on the side of the Yugoslavs - so I won't make any allegations unless I have the facts on that.

What I can say is clearly we all know that the vast majority of human suffering in Kosovo is caused by Belgrade, that's clear. Secondly, in any scientific investigation you begin by constructing hypotheses and you don't eliminate any hypotheses until you have tested them and there are a number of hypotheses that can explain a situation where there are a number of mangled bodies on a road. I believe that over time we will establish the truth on this but it may take some time. All I ask is for everybody to preserve their scientific judgement until the facts come out. We do know - at least we've had many reports from refugees - that the Serb forces have shelled refugees, for example the incident in the Paragusa Valley some time back; we do know that they have used in the past helicopters and Supergalab (phon) aircraft flying at low altitude to carry out operations against the UCK predominantly. So I think the best thing one could do here is to try to get the facts and once they become known to confirm those but for the time being you cannot exclude any hypothesis. The only hypothesis that we have not got at the moment is that they would be the result of any NATO action. As I said in response to a question we have no indications of that whatever.

Same Questioner: Given the fact that NATO has just bombed an airfield where Supergalabs are based in Montenegro, even if we may lose those planes on radar tracks whilst they are in flight, doesn't NATO know whether they were in the air at time periods that would fit?

Jamie Shea: Yes. The AWACs aircraft are able sometimes to pick them up at great distance but the difficulty of intercepting them is that as you know, they hug the terrain and they land within minutes, they stay in the air for virtually the best part of 10 or 15 minutes, not more than that and of course, as they fly very low it's not always easy for an Awacs aircraft to pick them up in every instance.

Question (Norway): Just one question relating to the matter which everyone is interested in. Yesterday, SHAPE sent out the message stating what you have already said, that one civilian vehicle was hit. What kind of vehicle was this? Do you have any pictures also of this vehicle? Was this the kind of tractor that we have seen on the television? How do you know this if you don't know a lot about all the other bits?

The second question is related to Montenegro. Why were navy targets bombed last night and do you regard continuous bombing of this as being a danger to the stability of Dukanovic's (phon) government?

Jamie Shea: Right! Let me take, if I may, first the Montenegro question and I'll leave the question on the civilian vehicle to General Marani.

On Montenegro, we have exercised a policy of restraint, that is clear. On the other hand, we cannot ignore airfields and air-defence systems inside Montenegro, particularly the fact that several SAM missiles have been fired at our pilots from Montenegro and we act in self-defence naturally. That is the rule of engagement of all pilots, to take action in self-defence.

Several ships of the Yugoslav navy in Montenegro ports have also fired at NATO aircraft. However, NATO has not attacked any ship of the Yugoslav navy but they have been using their artillery to fire up into the air against our planes.

General Marani: About the incident, we told you because we were sure of what we were telling you.

Question: What sort of vehicle was it?

General Marani: It was a civilian

Same Questioner: Was it a civilian vehicle?

General Marani: It probably was a tractor.

Same Questioner: Probably?

General Marani: It probably was a tractor.

Same Questioner: But how do you know this, do you have photos of it, do you have.

General Marani: Of course. As I told you yesterday, the information is correlated, different sources, different types of information that are correlated in order to be sure of what we are saying. Yesterday, we had this information about the first specific case, we told you what we knew as we have done in the past.

Same Questioner: It is easy to say you are sure but you said it's probably a tractor.

General Marani: Vehicles that have been damaged, you assume that it is a tractor, that it could well be a tractor.

Jamie Shea: This isn't a situation where you can send the local police round to investigate on the scene of an accident like you do if you have a car crash in your town, as you well know. We are doing our best on the basis of photographic material at 15,000 feet so clearly it's difficult to ascertain that with clarity but again, as I said before, when we have more information we will share it with you but we have no more at the present time.

I think Mrs. Savic has been waiting to ask a question. Please go ahead!

Mrs. Savic, NOVOSTI: I have two questions, if I may:

For you Mr. Shea, you talked today a little bit more about UCK activities. Are you aware of any activities of the so-called army in Macedonia and Albania and does NATO support the flow of materials, arms and people into neighbouring Kosovo?

For the General: I am interested in the fate of the pilots which did these horrible mistakes. Do they still fly, are they rewarded, punished or just simply told: "Please don't do it again!"?

Jamie Shea: On the KLA, I again stress NATO has no official contacts with the KLA. Obviously, we know that they have been operating along the border between Albania and Kosovo, they have even been successful at opening a corridor and that may have helped indeed many refugees to enter Albania that might have otherwise been prevented from doing so.

No, Mrs. Savic, I was just trying to make the general point that it would be much easier for us to ask the UCK to exercise restraint, as we have been doing, if the Serb forces would do the same inside Kosovo and clearly it would be a more effective strategy.

The second point I was trying to make is that whenever you have this type of brutal repression against a people, there is inevitably going to be a degree of resistance and the more you crack down, the more you simply make that phoenix rise up from the ashes and therefore perhaps we should not be surprised to see that contrary to the claims of Belgrade that it would be able to liquidate the KLA in a week, even with the most brutal phase of the operation that we've seen in the entire Kosovo conflict over the past year, it still seems to be strong and at least in terms of recruits getting stronger so I just point out it is a counter-productive strategy in the long run.

After the General has talked about the pilot, we'll have a few final questions.

General Marani: I'm sorry you asked me this question really because you force me to ask you a question. Are you aware of what kind of punishment MUP and the VJ soldiers had after killing, slaughtering and raping people? Our crews are crews of democratic countries who do their best to avoid collateral damage, to avoid killing innocent people. Of course, everybody can make mistakes but at least these mistakes are made - and they are seldom made - in an effort to save life and not to kill it.

Jamie Shea: Yes, NATO pilots don't profit from these type of situations, we don't take the money away from the victims or deprive of them of their identity cards and the rest, in fact we express regret and I wish there were a little bit more of that in Kosovo.

Patricia Kelly, CNN: I'd just like to get back to this incident north of Djakovica. The General is saying that there was probably a tractor there but in the voice of the person that you told us is the voice of the pilot yesterday, he clearly says that he saw with his own eyes - the expression was "eyeballed" - three olive-green, military armoured vehicles. Trucks and tractors aren't olive-green - most of them aren't, they are either bright yellow or bright green or red - and surely if there was probably a tractor you'd know by now if there was one or not? Can you please clarify this?

General Marani: What I'm telling you is based on other means of investigation that were surely not available to the pilot when he dropped the bomb and when he recognised what was on the road as trucks.

Craig: Thank you, Jamie. You told us yesterday that the incident which NATO regretted was an attack on a convoy between Prizren and Djakovica.

Jamie Shea: Yes. The road continues up a little bit north so it was north of Djakovica and if I was misleading, it was innocently done, Craig, but when I had more information we found that it was on the same road which goes up to Pec, by the way, carrying on but was north of Djakovica.

CRAIG: They were not talking about other attacks?

Jamie Shea: No, no, no and I'm the first person, as you know, who is willing to say mea culpa and correct it.

Craig: And you can't say whether there were attacks made on the road on military convoys?

Jamie Shea: What I can say is that NATO carries out attacks on military convoys every day, that's our business. You would be amazed to hear that we weren't doing that because otherwise how are we going to put a stop to the suffering in Kosovo and I hope we continue to do it tomorrow and the day after and the day after but what I'm saying is that we have no indication of any other hit on a civilian vehicle apart from the one that we owned up to and apologised for north of Djakovica on Wednesday.

Ladies and Gentlemen, tomorrow is Saturday but there will be a briefing at 3 p.m. Thank you very much and we'll see you then.

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