The Independent, 5-8-99

War in The Balkans - Nato cluster bomb
leaves seven dead

By Julian Manyon

The elderly woman lay on her back in
the street, her eyes sightless, her
face turning the colour of wax. There
was no mark on her apart from the small
bloody hole in the centre of her
forehead caused by a Nato cluster bomb
which did extensive damage to several
streets near the vegetable market in
the southern town of Nis.

A second cluster bomb exploded 50 yards
from a medical centre a mile away. In
both places unexploded canisters from
the bomb, carrying printed inscriptions
in English lay among the wreckage of
cars and broken glass.

Beside the dead woman's body was a bag
of carrots she had just bought at the
market. Ten feet away lay, the body of
an old man probably in his 70s. He had
been peppered with shrapnel while
trying to sell eggs and spring onions
from a stall made from a cardboard box.
Near by was a third body, a young man
surrounded by pools of blood.

He died on the doorstep of 50-year old
Smilja Yuric who survived because she
was inside her front room. "It went
blat-blat-blat," she told me imitating
the distinctive sound of the cluster
bomb's multiple explosions which I last
heard in Chechnya when they were
dropped on the civilian population of
Grozny. "I didn't know where I was,"
said Ms Yuric. "I was completely

About a mile away, another cluster bomb
had detonated amid civilian housing.
Again, the splatter marks of shrapnel
riddled the houses and cars, many of
them burnt out. Three more people
including an 85-year-old man died here.
Amid the silent devastation a woman
wept beside her wrecked home.

Serb authorities said seven civilians
died in two attacks and a further six
in a third, with more than 30 injured.
Nato is investigating the reports.

The bomb strikes on Nis appear to be
another Nato blunder as the alliance
continues to pile the pressure on
President Milosevic amid what may be
the start of a diplomatic end-game over
Kosovo. In Belgrade the Yugoslav leader
appears to be preparing for what could
be the most dangerous moment for him -
the day that the bombing stops.

The RTS state television service has
broadcast a statement by the Yugoslav
Left Party (JUL) led by the President's
fanatically determined wife, Mira
Markovic, promising a crackdown on
"traitors" in Yugoslav society.

The statement comes amid predictions of
serious unrest if Mr Milosevic is
forced to accept armed Nato troops in
Kosovo as part of a UN-approved peace

But there is a prospect of complex
wrangling between the US and Russia
over the wording of a UN Security
Council resolution which may soon be
presented to Mr Milosevic on a
take-it-or-leave-it basis. Serb
government officials take some comfort
that the United Nations will now be at
the heart of settlement negotiations, a
fact they can present to their people
as a positive result of Serbia's
defiance. But the central issue which
will determine President Milosevic's
chances of survival remains the same:
the nature and composition of the
"civil and security presence" that
Russia has now endorsed for Kosovo.

Some Serb officials have moved away
from their repeated insistence that
such a presence should consist only of
unarmed observers and are now
suggesting armed troops of such
"non-aggressor" Nato countries as
Greece and Canada would be acceptable
alongside a large Russian contingent.

That limited concession, clearly still
unacceptable to Nato, has provoked
angry denials from the radical
nationalist wing of the government led
by the hard-liner Vojislav Seselj. He
told a Belgrade press conference: "Bill
Clinton is very wrong if he thinks
Slobodan Milosevic is getting nearer to
Nato's position."

The presence of US and British troops
as part of a Kosovo force is seen here
as a bitter pill which President
Milosevic may in the end be willing to
swallow if he can find a way to
restrain the combative instincts of
some of his army generals and a way to
explain the results of this war to his
own people.

The media attack on "traitors" is
already a clear sign that President
Milosevic is girding himself to face
the inevitable recriminations that will
follow any peace agreement of the kind
currently being discussed. But if Mr
Milosevic faces the problem of
explaining to his population what has
been gained by almost seven weeks of
Nato bombardment, the deaths of
hundreds of people and the destruction
of much of the country's economic
capacity, then Nato will also have some
explaining to do.

In particular, why it dropped two
cluster bombs, designed to kill large
numbers of enemy infantry, on civilian
districts in this southern Serbian city
which is now mourning its losses.

Julian Manyon, special correspondent
for ITN in Yugoslavia, has been in
Belgrade since the start of the bombing
on 24 March

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