Escaped Kosovo Serb war crimes suspects reach Serbia

PRISTINA, Sep 4, 2000 -- (AFP) Four of the 13 Serbs suspected of atrocities during the Kosovo war who escaped a UN-run jail have reached safety in Serbia, the self-styled leader of their community said Sunday.

Oliver Ivanovic, mayor of the Serbian enclave in northern Kosovska Mitrovica, said: "Four of the escapees have called their families to say they are in Serbia."

The four, who fled the jail in Serb-dominated northern Mitrovica after overpowering guards late Saturday, have family in the divided Kosovo town. There was no news of the other nine escapees, from other parts of Kosovo.

The escapees included four prisoners accused of war crimes, three of genocide, four of mass murder, one of murder and one of arson and theft committed during Kosovo's 1998-1999 civil war between ethnic Albanian separatists and forces loyal to Belgrade, UN spokesman Michael Keats said.

Two other prisoners attemptimg to flee were immediately recaptured.

Bernard Kouchner, the head of the UN administration in Kosovo, launched an inquiry Sunday into the embarrassing escape, which brought the total number of Serbs accused of war atrocities to escape UN detention in Mitrovica to 22.

Ivanovic told AFP that they had escaped because "they could not expect a fair trial."

Saturday's jailbreak saw around a third of the total number of Serbs in Kosovo jails accused of war crimes, genocide and mass murder escape the authority of the UN, and dealt a massive blow to the credibility of the province's UN-led justice system.

Kosovo is a Yugoslav province which has been run by the United Nations since June last year, when a NATO bombing campaign forced Yugoslavia to abandon its struggle against ethnic Albanian separatist guerrillas and accept the arrival of an international administration.

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