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Janko Bobetko, 84; Croatian Army Chief Seen as Hero, Criminal

May 01, 2003|From Times Wire Reports

Janko Bobetko, 84, the wartime army chief hailed at home as a hero of Croatia's 1991 struggle for independence but charged with war crimes by a U.N. court, died Tuesday.

Bobetko, the most senior Croatian officer sought by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, was never tried because of his ill health.

The tribunal indictment charged Bobetko with responsibility in the killings of at least 100 Serb civilians and soldiers during Croatia's 1993 offensive to retake a central Croatian area seized by the Serb rebels in the 1991 war.

Bobetko vehemently refused to surrender, and nationalists and war veterans threatened to fight against his extradition.

In his memoirs, titled "All My Battles," Bobetko said that the 1993 action -- aimed at ending the rebels' siege and bombardment of the central Croatian city of Gospic -- was brilliant.

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