100 Serbs block entrance to prison after escape of 13 inmates

PRISTINA, Sep 5, 2000 -- (AFP) Some 100 Serbs blocked the entrance to the UN-run prison in Kosovska Mitrovica Monday to prevent all prisoner transfers after 13 Serb inmates escaped over the weekend, UN police said.

Police in the ethnically divided town were due to transfer the remaining 32 prisoners for security reasons after the escape Saturday of 13 Serbs, wanted for war crimes, genocide, murder, arson and theft, UN police spokesman Yvan de Saint Foy said.

"We were unable to transfer any of the prisoners," he said.

The escapees allegedly committed their crimes during Kosovo's 1998-1999 civil war between ethnic Albanian separatists and forces loyal to Belgrade.

Protestors feared that the security of the remaining prisoners could not be guaranteed at other jails, Serb sources told AFP.

The Mitrovica prison, in the northern, Serbian majority part of the town, houses Albanian and roma prisoners as well as Serbs.

The inmates had been due to be transferred to other detention centers south of the Ibar river, which separates the northern part of the city from the Albanian-dominated south.

In all, 15 Serb prisoners escaped late Saturday when a prisoner was brought back to his cell and detainees grabbed the escorting officer, beat him over the head with a pistol smuggled into the jail, tied up him with strips of cloth and took his keys.

The prisoners then unlocked other cells, and the escapees entered the duty room, where they held up three more officers and two translators, and stole DEM 6,150 (USD 2,800, EUR 3,144) before scaling a barbed wire fence and fleeing.

Two of the 15, accused of murder, were arrested soon afterwards by soldiers of the KFOR multinational peacekeeping force, but 13 remain at large, with at least four of them having reached safety in Serbia.

A multinational police force under UN command has been in charge of civilian law enforcement in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo since a NATO bombing campaign brought to an end the province's civil war and paved the way for the arrival of KFOR and the UN administration.

Original article