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Human shields defend Belgrade bridges

By
GEORGE NASH Written for UPI

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia, April 16 -- Thousands of Serbs, including women, teenagers and elderly men lined up Thursday evening along three main bridges spanning the Sava and Danube rivers in downtown Belgrade in what they described as 'human shields against NATO aggression,' apparently organized by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's government. Groups of people, wearing 'bull's eye' targets and singing and chanting, have been gathering early in the evenings on the Gazela and the Brankov bridges across the Sava River connecting the old section of the Serbian capital with the New Belgrade neighborhood, and the Danube bridge connecting a northern section of Belgrade with the industrial town of Pancevo, 12 miles from the capital. Most of the streets of Belgrade, once a busy city of 2 million, were empty Thursday night, with threatening clear skies offering opportunities to NATO war planes to target military-related installations and infrastructure. Air defense systems around Belgrade were active Thursday night firing against NATO planes but local media offered no reports of anti-aircraft fire results. A spokesman for Milosevic's ruling Socialist party, Ivica Dacic, addressing the state-controlled television and radio stations, said that 'NATO was militarily incapable to demolish military targets and therefore was spilling its anger onto civilians.' Dacic was referring to an incident Wednesday when a NATO F-16 jetfighter attacked a motorized column of ethnic Albanian refugees on a road at Djakovica in southwestern Kosovo province. NATO officials have expressed regret over the incident that occurred by mistake and which left some 70 civilians dead and another 30 wounded.

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The official news agency Tanjug, quoting officials at military and police headquarters, said a major railway bridge at Lim Lake on the Prijepolje to Priboj stretch in central-western Serbia was heavily damaged by NATO raids, virtually putting out of function the main railroad from Belgrade to the southern Adriatic port of Bar. During a day Thursday, at least 10 Serbian towns were targeted by 'criminal NATO aggression hitting mainly at civilian objects,' Belgrade media reported. The towns attacked were Belgrade, Pristina, Kragujevac, Nis, Cacak, Valjevo, Uzice, Krusevac, Kraljevo and Kursumlija. Reports from Montenegro said NATO planes overnight Thursday attacked the military airfield and installations outside the Montenegrin capital of Podgrioca and the towns of Danilovgrad and Tuzi and the Adriatic port of Bar. There was no immediate information about damage rendered in Montenegro, except that the Podgorica telecom said all telephone lines with Serbia were cut off due to a coaxial cable damage somewhere at the central western Serbian town of Uzice. With no consistent information about casualties, Nebojsa Vujovic, a spokesman for the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry, Thursday evening claimed 'about 1,000 civilians were killed and another several thousands were injured' in the three weeks of the NATO airstrikes. Vujovic put the damage inflicted on Yugoslavia to more than $100 billion. ---

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