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Tuesday, May 25, 1999 Published at 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK

World: Europe

Istok prison's unanswered questions

Why did Nato launch a series of attacks on this prison?

By Jacky Rowland in Kosovo

Our latest visit to Istok prison, in northwest Kosovo, poses more questions than it offers answers.

It is clear that the prison has been badly pounded by Nato since our first visit on Friday.

[ image:
"We counted 44 corpses lying outside"
One building was smouldering while the dining hall and several cell blocks were badly damaged.

The authorities say dozens of people have been killed in the bombing raid and about 200 injured. The dead are said to include inmates and prison employees.

They say bombers have been circling overhead for days, making it impossible to remove the dead and wounded.

According to the police the prison was finally evacuated early on Monday.

How did they die?

I was among a small group of journalists taken to the prison by the Serb authorities.

Walking around the prison we counted 44 bodies, about half of these appeared to be the victims of the first bombing raid on Friday, still lying under blankets on the grass.

[ image: The prison looks all but deserted]
The prison looks all but deserted
Then we were taken to a room in a damaged cell block where there were 25 corpses.

The men appeared to be ethnic Albanians, some of them had shaved heads, others had longer hair. A couple of the corpses had their trousers pulled down around their knees.

We were told they had died between Friday and Sunday, although it was not clear how all of them had met their deaths, nor while they were all in one relatively undamaged room.

What is the prison used for?

The prison looked all but deserted, yet we saw two armed men in camoflauge uniforms and black masks standing guard. A building not far from the prison had a pile of sandbags on the roof.

It is difficult to assess exactly what is the significance of Istok prison, although Nato has described it as a military and police complex.

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