An American pilot is reported to have been captured by Bosnian Serbs after his plane was shot down.
NATO says the F-16 jet was hit by a ground-to-air missile over the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka.
President Clinton says he’s very concerned about the pilot’s fate.
The American F-16, similar to these jet fighters, took off from the NATO air base at Aviano on Friday on what was said to be a routine mission.
While patrolling the air space over Bosnia the plane was reportedly shot down by a Soviet-era SAM-6 ground-to-air missile.
So far there is no firm news about the pilot’s fate. Bosnian Serb military sources say a parachute was seen floating down after the plane was hit. NATO also received an unconfirmed report that Bosnian Serbs had captured the pilot.
It’s a worrying development for President Clinton – but he says there’ll be no changes over U-S policy towards Bosnia.
I am very concerned about the loss of our F-16 over Bosnia and the fate of the American pilot and we are following that situation closely. I have spoken today with President Chirac about the situation in Bosnia and about the meetings that Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili will be attending. I have spoken with Secretary Perry and will meet with him and General Shalikashvili later today. We have also been in touch with the NATO commanders and other governments. I want to reiterate and to make absolutely clear that our policy on Bosnia remains firm. For reasons that I think are obvious I will have no further comments on this situation today, thank you very much.
SUPERCAPTION US President Bill Clinton
And White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, said that the incident would not affect America’s participation in patrolling the no-fly-zone over Bosnia.
It is true each and every day that NATO pilots and specifically U-S pilots participating in NATO operations that have been flying missions over former Yugoslavia that they have been in harms way. It is a situation that they have dealt with a long time and with great courage and with great skill they have met the challenge presented to them. There has been an escalation in that challenge today but we are determined to go ahead.
SUPER CAPTION:Mike McCurry, White House spokesman
The incident overshadowed the E-U meeting on the Italian island of Sicily.
Instead of celebrating European unity, politicians had to concentrate on Europe’s gravest crisis since Word War II. France is thought to be reconsidering its role in the U-N-mission.
The incident involving this American plane is proof of the extreme tensions in the territory of Bosnia Herzegovina. Therefore we have to implement the proposals that I have presented to you
SUPER CAPTION: Herve de Charette, French Foreign Minister
In New York, Mohammed Sacirbey, Bosnia’s ambassador to the United Nations expressed concern for the pilot’s safety.
Hopefully I can find something out about the fate of the US pilot, we will do whatever we can to try and secure his safety if he happens to be anywhere close to our lines. Unfortunately it appears that he is not anywhere close to our lines.
SUPER CAPTION Mohammed Sacirbey, Bosnian Ambassador to the UN
The U-S aircraft carrier Roosevelt is in the Adriatic, where it’s been joined by a ship carrying 2 thousand American Marines.
There’s mounting concern that the U-S could get dragged into Bosnia – either to assist the United Nations – or to rescue the downed American pilot.
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