Andras Riedlmayer on Mon, 26 Apr 1999 17:51:50 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Early Warnings to Serbia from Slovenia, Bosnia via WWW


The Balkan wars of the 1990s have often been characterized as the first
Internet war.  During the latter stages of the war in Bosnia, when Bihac
was reported to be cut off from the world and looked like it would become
the next U.N. "safe haven" to fall, a friend here was in real-time contact
via e-mail and satellite phone links with someone sheltering in a basement
in Bihac -- sending out instant messages as Serb artillery shells exploded

The current crisis in Kosovo has brought other dimensions of war to the
Internet, including the first Internet airplane spotters.  Whether they're
of any real use to the Yugoslav military may be open to debate, but it's
a phenomenon worth recording.

Andras Riedlmayer

Associated Press
April 24, 1999

Web Site Warns of Attacks on Serbs

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- It's mid-afternoon, hours before evening air
raid sirens normally sound over Belgrade. But in Nenad Cosic's home,
another kind of early-alert system is already active. 

``We can hear the idiots -- flying towards Yugoslavia,'' warns an e-mail
sent from Slovenia hundreds of miles away. ``Good luck, Yugoslavia!''

Cosic sighs as he slots the message into a growing list on his screen. 

``They're starting early today,'' he says of the aircraft coming from the
north, heading in his direction for a new wave of NATO airstrikes meant to
force a compromise on Kosovo. ``It's going to be a long and busy day.''

A Yugoslav Internet provider and a peacetime graphic designer, Cosic now
spends up to 18 hours of his day compiling what amounts to an anti-NATO
early warning system -- and a blow-by-blow description of the strikes. 

Operating from an office on the ground floor of his villa in downtown
Belgrade, the bearded 43-year-old says he rarely sees his wife and two
children, even though living quarters for the family are only a floor

``This has turned into a passion,'' he says of his long hours at the
computer screen, as he shoves his glasses atop his head to rub his
red-rimmed eyes. ``It gives me a feeling of doing something useful during
this war.''

Typically, the first e-mails Cosic receives are like the one on a recent
afternoon from Celje, Slovenia -- northwest of Yugoslavia -- warning of
NATO overflights toward intended targets. 

Others follow from the Serb part of neighboring Bosnia.

``They are flying over very high up,'' says an e-mail from the border town
of Bijeljina. ``Shoot down the bastards!'' And another Bosnian Serb warns:
``Planes flying high over Banja Luka. Brothers, hold on!''

Predictably, many warnings come from Serbs outside Serbia or others from
former Yugoslav republics like Slovenia. Others come from Hungary and the
Czech Republic. 

As the evening progresses, the pace picks up and the content of the
e-mails change -- from alerts to often very personal messages of bombs and
missile strikes as they occur. By midnight, Cosic opens new mail every few
seconds, and the chronology of attacks on towns and suburbs near Belgrade
is growing: 

00:35 -- ``In Zemun, we can hear planes and several detonations from
        the direction of Belgrade''

00:36 -- ``Loud detonations and planes flying over. Our air defense is
        fighting back. Good luck Belgrade.''

00:36 -- ``Many explosions in Pancevo.''

And toward the end of the long night, a message from near Batajnica, the
military airfield north of Belgrade that reflects a bad case of the
jitters after an intense attack: 

02:06 -- ``About 10 bombs were dropped. I didn't count them well.
        I was confused and was lying on the floor. The whole sky
        above the airport is red.''

There is no guarantee the e-mails are accurate. But the targets named in
overnight messages to Cosic's site on the World Wide Web usually jibe with
those reported by state media the next day. 

And the e-mail site is well-visited. Cosic says the page listing overnight
attacks and others with related material has had about 20 million hits
since starting operations about four weeks ago, many from as far as the
United States. 

Cosic says the idea of compiling a running commentary just happened. 

``I posted a message telling people to e-mail with news of attacks, and
this is what grew out of it,'' he said. 

Other people drift in as the night grows, offering to help. Cosic waves
them off. 

``This is my job now,'' he says, yawning. ``NATO chose it for me.''

The Web site address is

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