The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 50.0°F | Light Rain

Pristina Suffers Airstrikes During Daytime NATO Raid

By Paul Watson
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- PRISTINA, Yugoslavia

A NATO airstrike, part of the heaviest daytime raid yet on Kosovo’s capital, sprayed burning shrapnel through a car driving along a main street in Pristina Monday, killing three men and seriously wounding a fourth.

Even though the day was mostly cloudy, two powerful blasts shook Pristina around 10 a.m. Another two much heavier explosions struck the city at 2:25 p.m., followed by two more that hit Pristina’s already devastated army barracks and the four-lane road outside. One of the explosions knocked out a power station, leaving most of the city without electricity.

As planes roared overhead, hundreds of ethnic Albanians about 12 miles southwest of Pristina were fleeing in a convoy of about 130 tractors pulling wagonloads of villagers.

In Pristina, just minutes after a missile exploded Monday afternoon near a blue Ford Escort XR3, journalists saw one of the dead in the rear passenger seat with a hole the size of a fist in the back of his head.

He was wearing a camouflaged police uniform. Several police wept and hugged each other after loading his body into the back of a white van, which delivered the corpse to the morgue.

A police officer at the scene, across the busy street from the main army barracks, claimed that the victims in the two-door car were all civilians. Whether they were or not, it appeared anyone in a civilian car might wonder if they, too, could be at risk.

Pieces of what the Yugoslav army identified as a NATO missile lay in front of the car where it veered off King Peter I Street, the main route south from Pristina’s city center.

The remnants included several coils, a scorched canister and what looked like a small motor blade. Flying shrapnel gouged large divets in the asphalt, creating a spray pattern that spread out from the car.

In the countryside, where more ethnic Albanians were heading toward the border, some tractors also were towing cars with Pristina license plates. They were hitched by rope to wagons covered with plastic tarps to keep the refugees and their few belongings warm and dry.

A few miles farther down the road about 50 tractors and cars were leading the way southwest toward the Albanian border.

Although some of the refugees were young men, most were women, children and the elderly, and as they moved slowly down the road, villages were burning far off on the horizon, in several directions.

When a foreign journalist tried to ask where the refugees were coming from, and why, a Yugoslav army officer stopped on the roadside, backed up by an armored vehicle carrying several soldiers in black masks.

As one of them panned a turret-mounted machine gun slowly back and forth at the passing column of refugees, the army officer checked the journalists’ papers and then ordered them to leave.

As they drove on toward Djakovica, a town about 70 miles southwest of Pristina near the Albanian border, journalists passed two fresh house fires burning beside the road. A policeman in camouflage fatigues strolled nearby, his AK-47 assault rifle pointing at the ground and swinging lazily at his side.

The trip to Djakovica was approved but not escorted by government officials.