War in The Balkans: Nato admits safety for pilots makes `mistakes' inevitable

Civilian Deaths
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NATO MILITARY investigators were trying last night to determine whether the alliance should admit responsibility for the second accidental bombing of a civilian bus in the space of three days, this time killing at least 10 people.

Serb media blamed a Nato bomb for the destruction of a bus in western Kosovo on the road leading from the town of Pec to a town in neighbouring Montenegro. In addition to the deaths, which some Serbian reports put as high as 20, a further 10 people were said to be wounded in the attack, just after 1pm local time yesterday.

The incident reinforces the view that by deliberately flying at high altitude to avoid Serb air defences, Nato is causing a lot of civilian casualties. Military sources concede that, from the height at which most air operations are being conducted, mistakes in identifying targets are inevitable.

According to Yugoslav reports the bus was driving from Pec to Rozaje, in Montenegro, and was hit near the village of Savine Vode, 12km (eight miles) west of Pec. Three civilian and two police cars were also destroyed. The target was thought to have been a nearby police and army checkpoint. The Serb Media Centre quoted Pec officials as saying the bus was full of women and children. Although Nato insisted it would release no further information until an investigation had been carried out, one source conceded that most Serb claims about the alliance's collateral damage have proved accurate.

Nato has already admitted that a stray missile hit a bus travelling north of the provincial capital, Pristina, on Saturday. On that occasion the vehicle was crossing a bridge which was attacked by a Nato warplane, but was seen too late for the pilot to stop his laser-guided weapon. Western journalists counted 23 bodies at the scene although Serb sources say that 39 people, many of them children, were killed.

As the alliance was grappling with the implications of the rising number of civilian casualties, it sought to emphasise its military success in crippling much of the Yugoslav electricity supply network.

For the first time in the air campaign the alliance deployed so-called "soft bombs" which were pioneered in the Gulf War and which are designed to disable, rather than destroy, the infrastructure. The weapon, which explodes in the air showering installations with graphite filaments and causing short circuits, was targeted at a series of power plants throughout Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile a Serbian soldier, captured by the Kosovo Liberation Army, has spoken of atrocities being carried out by Yugoslav forces against ethnic Albanians.

In one of the first accounts of what is going on inside Kosovo from the Serbian military, he has told his captors of killings and rape inside the province.

The Kosovo Liberation Army has released a video of the 29-year-old infantryman, Shefko Terovic, being interrogated after his capture in western Kosovo. He looks dazed and first appears blindfolded and handcuffed in the back of a jeep. The video claims 11 out of the 12 men in his unit have been killed.

Speaking through an interpreter, he then apparently tells the KLA: "I remember a refugee area where we acted terribly - I heard from some friends from the camp where women were raped.

On extracts of the tape played on Radio 4's Today programme, he added: "We cleansed not only men but women, children and the elderly. When we cleansed houses we took what we wanted - jewellery, money, cars.

"Two days after Nato air strikes we opened fire on Albanian houses with tanks. We set houses on fire with civilians probably inside."

Pte Terovic then names the commanders who have ordered the ethnic cleansing. He said the police ordered troops to collect money from Albanians before ordering them to leave their homes. He also describes how he met Serbian paramilitaries who had carried out a massacre.

"We came upon a group of Serbian paramilitaries who were being cocky... They had just slaughtered 50 men, executed them, shot them all dead. They were happy, feeling good. There was a mass grave nearby." He claimed morale in the Yugoslav army was low and that troops should not support Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The KLA claim they will treat the soldier as a prisoner of war and hand him to Nato later this week. However, a spokesman for the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry, Milisav Paic, said using KLA "terrorists" as a source of information was "outrageous".