SERBIAN REPORTS: RATKO MLADIC CORNERED
Belgrade — War-crimes fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from the Bosnian war, has been located and authorities are negotiating his surrender, a top state security official said Tuesday.
Gen. Mladic was located but “he has yet not been arrested,” the official, who is close to the operation to locate Gen. Mladic, told the Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The state news agency Tanjug reported earlier Tuesday that Gen. Mladic was arrested in Belgrade and being taken to a U.S.-run air base for transport to the UN war-crimes tribunal.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman denied the Tanjug report that Gen. Mladic was arrested.
Srdjan Djuric, spokesman for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, told the AP in a statement that Gen. Mladic had not been arrested. He called the report a “manipulation” to attempt to derail the government’s efforts to detain the wartime Bosnian Serb army commander, who has been on the run since the 1990s.
In Washington, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Gen. Mladic “continues to be a fugitive from justice.” When asked if Gen. Mladic had been arrested or apprehended, Mr. Ereli replied that he was not aware of either’s occurring.
The conflicting reports caused confusion in Belgrade. There have been numerous incorrect reports in the past that Gen. Mladic was captured.
Gen. Mladic is wanted by the war-crimes tribunal on genocide charges related to Europe’s worst carnage since the Second World War – the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys (related link) from Srebrenica in 1995 – and for other crimes during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
Serbia, seeking to establish closer ties with the European Union and NATO, faces renewed international isolation if it fails to extradite Gen. Mladic to the UN tribunal in The Hague.
European Union officials have warned that Serbia’s initial talks on joining the 25-nation bloc could be frozen unless he is handed over by the end of February.
Officials at the EU and NATO said they had no information about the reported arrest.
Earlier Tuesday, senior Kostunica aide Vladeta Jankovic predicted that Gen. Mladic would be captured “soon.”
“Those who are searching have all means and are in full swing” in efforts to capture Gen. Mladic, Mr. Jankovic said. He said the government wanted to persuade the general to surrender.
He said later Tuesday, however, that he had no information on whether Gen. Mladic’s hiding place had been located or whether the government was involved in any negotiations for his surrender.
Gen. Mladic, 62, is No. 2 on the tribunal’s most-wanted list after Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (related link), who remains at large.
Under an indictment last amended in October 2002, the UN war-crimes tribunal charged Gen. Mladic with 15 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 1992-1996.
If tried and convicted, he faces life imprisonment, the tribunal’s maximum punishment. The UN court has no death penalty.
Related link: Ratko Mladic: $5,000,000.00 Reward