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Serbia Destroys Suspect Mall

March 15, 2003|From Times Wire Services

BELGRADE, Serbia and Montenegro — The Serbian government sent bulldozers and police armed with Kalashnikov rifles Friday to destroy a four-story shopping complex belonging to an alleged assassin of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who was slain Wednesday.

The demolition in Zemun, a suburb of Belgrade that is the headquarters of the mafia group accused in Djindjic's slaying, appeared designed to signal that the government will no longer tolerate the alliance of criminals and paramilitary groups that flourished during Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's rule in the 1990s.

The crackdown took place as police arrested dozens of alleged members of the Zemun clan and interrogated several Milosevic-era security chiefs.

Investigations showed that "a criminal clan, as well as some other groups, mainly police-security structures from Milosevic's times ... were involved in organizing and carrying out" the assassination, the government said in a statement. Djindjic was instrumental in ousting Milosevic in 2000 and handing him over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

Bystanders cheered as bulldozers crashed into the glass-and-concrete shopping center illegally constructed by Dusan Spasojevic, reputed to be the right-hand man to Milorad Lukovic, ex-chief of the paramilitary group the Red Berets.

The government described both men as "fugitives from justice."

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