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War crimes fugitive Mladic arrested
London, May 26 (Agencies):
Published on 26 May. 2011 9:54 PM IST
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Ratko Mladic, wanted by UN prosecutors for war crimes during the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s, has been arrested in Serbia and is being flown to The Hague.
Serbian President Boris Tadic confirmed the arrest of the former Bosnian Serb army chief at a news conference.
Gen Mladic is accused of a key role in the massacre of at least 7,500 men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.
He was the most prominent Bosnian war crimes suspect at large since the arrest of Radovan Karadzic in 2008.
President Tadic said work was under way to extradite Gen Mladic to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and it later emerged that that a plane carrying the suspect had taken off from Belgrade for the Dutch city.
The detention, the Serbian leader said, had closed one chapter in Serbian history, bringing the country and the region closer to reconciliation.
It had also opened the doors to membership of the European Union, he added.
A spokeswoman for families of Srebrenica victims, Hajra Catic, told AFP news agency: “After 16 years of waiting, for us, the victims’ families, this is a relief.”
Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed the arrest, saying it finally offered “a chance for justice to be done”.
Gen Mladic was said by Serbian media to have been arrested in Vojvodina, a northern province of Serbia, in the early hours of Thursday morning.
President Tadic would only confirm he had been arrested “on Serbian soil”, adding that details of the arrest would be released once an investigation had been completed.
Gen Mladic had reportedly been using the assumed name Milorad Komodic.
Serbian security sources told AFP that three special units had descended on a house in the village of Lazarevo, around 80km (50 miles) south-west of Belgrade and close to the Romanian border.
The house was owned by a relative of Gen Mladic and had been under surveillance for the past two weeks, one of the sources added.
Gen Mladic was indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague in 1995 for genocide over the killings that July at Srebrenica - the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War II - and other crimes. Having lived freely in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, he disappeared after the arrest of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in 2001.
Speculation mounted that Gen Mladic would soon be arrested when Mr Karadzic was captured in Belgrade in July 2008.
Larry Hollingworth, a logistics officer with the UN refugee agency who regularly met Gen Mladic during the Bosnian war, said he was “absolutely delighted” by news of the arrest.
“He was a very, very imposing figure and managed to frighten a lot of people - certainly those who worked for him,” he told BBC Radio 4.
“He also had, you know, quite a sense of humour. I remember once he said to me: ‘You look like [Ernest] Hemingway.’ And I said: ‘I hope I don’t sort of end up my life the way Hemingway ended up his, shooting himself.’ And he said: ‘Oh, if you keep offending me, you’ll have no difficulty there.’”
Just before news of Thursday’s arrest, UN war crimes chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz accused Serbia of failing to do enough to find Gen Mladic.
“The capture is the biggest obligation of Serbia,” he said in a report sent to the UN Security Council.
“Until now efforts by Serbia to detain fugitives have not been sufficient.”
President Tadic rejected criticism that Serbia had only taken action following international pressure.
“It is crystal clear that we did not calculate when we had to arrest Ratko Mladic,” he told the news conference on Thursday.
“We have been co-operating with the Hague Tribunal fully from the beginning of the mandate of this government.”
• 1995: Gen Mladic indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes
• October 2000: Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ousted and arrested the following year; Gen Mladic, believed to be living in Serbia, disappears from view
• April 2005: Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic says Serbian security agents knew Gen Mladic’s whereabouts; the intelligence agency describes the allegations as “ridiculous”
• February 2006: Chief UN prosecutor demands Serbia step up the hunt for Gen Mladic and says the failure to arrest him will harm Serbia’s EU membership chances
• July 2008: Gen Mladic’s mentor, Bosnian Serb former political leader Radovan Karadzic, captured
• October 2010: Serbia offers 10m euros (£8.7m) for information leading to Gen Mladic’s capture and arrest

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