news 13 Oct 17

Kosovo Honours US Pilot for 1999 NATO Bombing

Kosovo honoured the US Air Force’s chief of staff David Goldfein, who was shot down as a pilot during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, with the country’s ‘Order of Freedom’.

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Kosovo security chief Rrahman Rama gives the medal to David Goldfein. Photo: Ministry of KSF.

Kosovo Security Forces Commander Rrahman Rama, on behalf of President Hashim Thaci, presented US Air Force chief of staff David Goldfein with the ‘Order of Freedom’ medal on Friday for his involvement in the campaign of air strikes which helped to end the Kosovo war in 1999.

General Rama “thanked General Goldfein for his sacrifice in defense of democratic and human values during the last war in Kosovo”, said a statement from the Ministry of the Kosovo Security Forces.

Rama also said that the people of Kosovo would be grateful forever to the US people and armed forces.

Goldfein was a pilot who had participated in the NATO bombing, which was aimed at ending Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s military campaign in Kosovo.

His F-16 fighter plane was shot down by the Yugoslav Army in May 1999 and crashed in western Serbia, but he survived and was rescued by NATO forces.

NATO launched air strikes after the failure of peace talks with Milosevic.

During the bombing, Yugoslav forces carried out an extensive campaign in Kosovo, resulting in the expulsion of much of the Kosovo Albanian population.

The Hague Tribunal later charged Milosevic and six other top Belgrade officials with committing war crimes in Kosovo, although the former leader died before a verdict was reached.

The bombing ended on June 10, 1999, after the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement and the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which was followed by the withdrawal of all Yugoslav military forces from Kosovo and the arrival of 36,000 international peacekeepers.

The Serbian government estimates that at least 2,500 people died and 12,500 were injured during the 78 days of the NATO military campaign.

Serbia’s defence ministry says that NATO forces killed 631 members of the Serbian armed forces.

But the total number of casualties remains unclear; campaign group Human Rights Watch puts the civilian death toll at around 500.

NATO has never revealed its losses.

At an anniversary commemoration in March this year, Serbia’s then Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic called the NATO campaign “one of the most brutal aggressions in the history of warfare”.

But Kosovo’s then Prime Minister Isa Mustafa described the anniversary of the launch of the bombing as a “historic day for Kosovo and NATO, but also for the concept of freedom and the need for its protection from criminal regimes”.

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