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War Crimes Suspect Held in Serbia After Clash

June 13, 2003|From Times Wire Services

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro — Police arrested a former army officer wanted for war crimes after violent clashes with a crowd that was trying to protect him.

The arrest late Thursday of Veselin Sljivancanin came hours after special police raided his apartment but failed to find him there. He was captured after police broke through a steel-reinforced door near his apartment.

Before Sljivancanin was caught, there were hours of clashes between police and the fugitive's supporters, who viewed him as a hero for his part in the war that surrounded the dissolution of the former Yugoslav federation.

Police used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets to fight back Sljivancanin's supporters, and at least seven of them were injured. The protest swelled to nearly 1,000 people during the police search of the apartment building.

The wanted man was taken to Belgrade's central prison in a convoy of armored cars.

Sljivancanin was indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague in the 1991 killings of more than 200 Croat and other non-Serb civilians.

He was charged in 1995 but evaded arrest with protection from the government of President Slobodan Milosevic, who was ousted in 2000 and faces charges himself.

Sljivancanin's arrest came two days before the U.S. government was to certify to Congress that Belgrade is cooperating with the tribunal on rounding up war crimes suspects, a step essential for the release of further economic aid worth millions of dollars.

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