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Yugoslav Boy's Kidnapping 'Horrendous'

December 02, 2000|From Associated Press

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Former Yugoslav tennis star Slobodan Zivojinovic said Friday that his family went through six days of agony after his 8-year-old son was abducted. He said they are considering leaving Yugoslavia.

Zivojinovic spoke about the boy's kidnapping and his release for the first time, saying he and his wife wanted to draw attention to the "horrendous act" and thank family friends and "thousands of strangers" who came forward to help.

The boy, Stefan, was handed back Tuesday after Zivojinovic and his wife paid a ransom of $1.1 million, according to Belgrade media. He was kidnapped Nov. 23.

"No child deserves this to happen to him," said Zivojinovic, who was accompanied by his wife, the popular folk singer Lepa Brena, who broke down in tears.

The boy was shaken but unhurt, the Glas Javnosti daily reported Friday. It did not identify its sources.

Family members reportedly followed kidnappers' instructions not to go public or seek police assistance, and there was never any official confirmation of the kidnapping or the release.

Zivojinovic was Yugoslavia's top tennis star in the 1980s and early 1990s. After withdrawing from sports, he went into business with his wife, and the couple has been considered among the wealthiest in the country.

Although crime is rampant in this impoverished Balkan country, kidnappings involving popular figures and high sums of money are almost unheard of.

"We shall try to help him recover as best as we can, but this will take time," Zivojinovic said, adding that Stefan was "having difficulty going out, afraid someone will come from behind, grab him and put him in a car."

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