Richard Norton-TaylorNato picked Belgrade targets for propaganda targets
Friday July 21, 2000
The cruise missile attacks that badly damaged the Serbian television and socialist party headquarters in Belgrade during the Kosovo war were specifically intended to maximise their domestic and international propaganda value, according to senior US officials.
The attacks, among the most controversial of Nato's bombing campaign, killed 16 civilians and injured 16 others.
They are singled out by US officials in an article in the latest issue of Jane's Defence Weekly, which also reveals that the British submarine Splendid fired 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles during the war, 17 of which hit their targets.
It was the first time British forces had used American-made cruise missiles in a military operation.
US ships and submarines fired 218 cruise missiles at 66 targets, and 181 reached their "intended aim-points", naval officers told the magazine.
Planners assessed which parts of the television and party building were most likely to contain the controls for fire alarms and sprinkler systems and the missiles were programmed to hit these spots - they were directed into the sixth floor and on to the roof - to increase the chance that any fire they caused would spread."
The building burned for three days, according to a senior US naval officer, who highlighted the propaganda value of having a well-known and highly visible government building lighting up the Belgrade skyline.
Human Rights Watch in New York sharply criticised the attack in April last year. It rejected claims by General Wesley Clark, then Nato's supreme commander, and British ministers that the building was a "legitimate military target". Amnesty International also condemned the attack as unlawful and said it constituted a war crime.
Nato governments say the building was used to pass information to Serb military units in Kosovo and to promote Serb propaganda.
Another precise target was one floor of a building in Pristina housing the Yugoslav interior ministry police.
Meanwhile it emerged that the families of Serbs killed in the missile attack on the building are suing the television station's bosses and Nato for damages.
"We think they are both equally responsible and both sides are running away from their guilt," said Zanka Stojanovic, whose son Nebojsa was killed during the attack.
The families say the state television company "violated the law by not allowing employees to go into shelters during an air raid".